Utility Commission Approves Rate Increases

By Staff

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utility Commission approved increases today in water and sewer rates, utility service base charges, and disposal rates at the solid waste and construction and demolition landfills for fiscal year 2016-2017. The new rates will take effect Oct. 1.

The rate changes will support the commission’s $42.1 million operations budget, $40.5 million debt service budget, and $54.3 capital improvements budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The commission approved a 1.5 percent increase in water rates and a 3 percent increase in sewer rates. The monthly base charge for water and sewer service for residential water meters will also increase by $1.25 per month. All meters have a base monthly fee that is charged regardless of usage. The base charge varies by size of meter.

Base charges recover such overhead expenses as meter reading, billing, administration and other indirect costs. Water and sewer rates cover the cost of water and sewer treatment, water distribution and sewer collection.

With this approval, the monthly bill for the average household in Winston-Salem using 4,500 gallons of water will increase by $1.45 to $43.39, or 7 cents more per day than the average household currently pays. The table below shows how the changes will affect various customers after Oct 1.

 

Table

Despite the increase, Utilities Director Ron Hargrove noted that Winston-Salem continues to offer competitive water and sewer rates when compared with North Carolina’s largest cities. Next year the estimated average monthly water and sewer bill with a consumption of 4,500 gallons will be $42.42 in Greensboro, $54.40 in Charlotte, $54.44 in Durham, and $63.01 in Raleigh.

“This rate increase is driven by our need to generate sufficient revenues to fund our capital plan and to cover on-going debt service payments,” Hargrove said. The division’s six-year capital improvements plan totals $257.9 million through fiscal year 2021-22. As of June 30, 2016, the total outstanding revenue bond debt will be $417,245,000.

Hargrove noted that overall operating expenses will decrease by $389,970 in fiscal year 2016-17. Also, by refinancing outstanding revenue bonds, debt-service payments in fiscal year 2016-17 will decrease by $2.1 million, which reduced the overall rate increase needed.

“Increasing rates to our customers is never an easy decision. However it is required to provide a long-term, safe, reliable and environmentally sound water and sewer system,” Hargrove said. “We cannot fall behind in updating our infrastructure, some of which is 80, 90 and 100 years old.”

Since 2006 the Utility Commission has been systematically rebuilding the water and sewer infrastructure in older city neighborhoods. Major projects are underway in the 21st Street area and in a portion of the Ardmore neighborhood, and more limited projects are in progress in other neighborhoods. This process will continue for the foreseeable future.

  • Other major projects in progress or planned include:
  • Continuing to update the Elledge and Muddy Creek wastewater treatment plants.
  • Replacing or rehabilitating sewer lines in the system that have identified defects and before they cause sewer stoppages or overflows.
  • Expanding the sewer collection capacity to handle future demand over the next 30 years in the Muddy Creek, Salem Creek and South Fork Creek sewer basins.
  • Relocating water and sewer pipes necessitated by state road projects.
  • Implementing an automatic meter reading system.
  • Upgrading the Idols raw water pump station.
  • Repairing and upgrading the Tobaccoville, Lewisville, Oldtown, Stanleyville and Bodenhamer water tanks.

At the Hanes Mill Road landfill, the disposal rate for large-volume users will increase 50 cents a ton, to $32. The rate for all other users will remain unchanged at $34 per ton. The disposal rate at the Old Salisbury Road landfill for construction & demolition debris will be $31 a ton, a $1 increase. These rates do not include the $2 per ton North Carolina disposal tax collected at Hanes Mill Road and Old Salisbury Road. Rates at the Overdale Road and Forum 52 yard-waste facilities will remain unchanged at $30 a ton.