Thursday, December 11, 2014

Is 5¢ per day a lot of money?

At its December 2, 2014 meeting, the Board of Municipal Utilities voted to increase water rates by three percent both this summer and next. (Here's a piece about it: That’s a lower increase than most utilities in Ohio and across the country see each year (nationally, water rates are increasing at nearly 5 percent annually). Why? Avon Lake Regional Water’s focus on regionalization. Because we sell water to other communities, we distribute much of our fixed water costs among a larger user base. As a result, we are able to keep annual increases roughly in line with inflation—even though we have other rising costs in addition to inflationary ones. Therefore, regionalization and our ability to find ways to save money keep our rate increases among the country’s lowest.

On the wastewater side, our regionalization now means we get approximately 15% of the flow we treat from outside our city limits. We have a strong partnership with the Rural Lorain County Sewer District (LORCO) and are working to add customers to help save all our customers money. This coming summer, wastewater rates will increase 7% to help pay for sewer separations and to rehabilitate our wastewater treatment plant. We anticipate similar increases for the next several years as we undertake approximately $25 million in sewer separation projects and $40 million in plant rehabilitation/improvements. Note: Through an agreement with Ohio EPA, Avon Lake’s sewer separation projects must be completed by 2020. In order to help them continue to move forward, early this year we offered to stop receiving approximately $500,000 per year from the City of Avon Lake in income tax revenue so they could use it to fund stormwater improvements they would like to undertake as we give them the former combined sewers to use as storm sewers. Giving up this revenue source places the entire burden of rehabilitation and capital improvements (as well as that of operations and maintenance) on us—meaning the revenues we receive from the bills you pay. We do not receive any of your income tax dollars.

The average Avon Lake residential customer pays a total of about $1 per day for water and wastewater services. The combined increases coming this summer for water and wastewater rates will increase your out of pocket expenses by about 5¢ per day ($20 per year). If you want to offset that increase, you need only decrease your daily water usage by 10 gallons. Run clothes and dishwashers only when full. Turn off the sink when brushing teeth and shaving. Wash dishes in a dishwasher rather than hand washing under running water. Have each family member take a shorter shower. Reduce toilet flushing volumes by placing a rock in the toilet tank. Irrigate a little less. Switch showerheads and other fixtures to low-flow varieties. These are all things that can save enough water to offset the additional expense of this rate increase. (Watch vids here to learn more:

We work hard to keep your rates as low as practical and provide you with high-value services. Recently, the 2013 Ohio EPA Sewer and Water Rate Survey was published. Avon Lake residents’ water bills rank in the bottom 1% statewide, and wastewater bills rank in the bottom 10%. When Avon Lake’s water and wastewater bills are compared to those of other cities with a population of 20,000 to 30,000 (like ours), Avon Lake bills are the lowest. In fact, Avon Lake residents save more than $500 per year compared to the average water and wastewater bill in those cities. No one likes rising rates, but that’s the world we live in—and at least you live a city where the water is so comparatively inexpensive you are already saving $500 every year.