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Sewer rates rising
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 24 September 2008 12:53

Monthly sewer bills will increase if the Camp Verde Sanitary District approves a new long-term rate plan devised by a utility consulting firm.
Utility rates are on the rise nationwide, said Dan Jackson, with Economists.com, the group hired for the study.

It’s not easy to come in and tell people their rates are going up, Jackson said, but it’s today’s reality.

“It’s important to understand what’s happening in the industry,” Jackson said. “It’s not going to be as inexpensive as it was in the 20th century.”

The causes are numerous, Jackson said, from rising employee insurance premiums and inflation to stricter federal environmental regulations — often in the form of unfunded mandates that leave municipalities and districts holding the bill.

On average, Jackson said, Arizona utility rates increase about 5 to 6 percent a year.

If the rate plan is adopted, users’ bills will increase over the next few years before eventually decreasing, although the bill will still be higher than it is
right now.

Currently, the minimum monthly charge is $9. Since the district does not have access to water usage data controlled by the privately owned Camp Verde Water Company, bills are calculated based on the number of “fixture units” in a home.

An average home has around 16 to 20 fixture units, Jackson said, but that doesn’t mean that all fixtures are equal. A toilet is worth more units than a bathroom sink, for example.

The district now charges $1 per fixture for residential users and $1.50 for non-residential customers. Under the new plan, that rate would increase gradually to $1.97 and $2.81, respectively, by October 2012. A resident who pays $16 a month in usage fees today could expect to pay more than $31 in four years.

The plan calls for the tax rate to remain the same at $1.20 per $100 of home value, along with another tax levied to help pay off debt incurred by the new wastewater treatment plant and the new current sewer expansion project.

According to projections that assume a refinancing measure on the ballot passes in November, that rate would start at $1.82 per $100 and gradually decrease to $1.26 by 2012.

A customer with a $225,000 home and 16 fixture units could expect their monthly obligation to peak at around $76 in 2009 before dropping to nearly $71 in 2012.

The numbers also assume that connection fees will increase from $500 to $1,750 next year.

Jackson warned that his projected numbers depend heavily on growth and revenue. The current state of the housing market and economy aside, Jackson said he feels his growth projections are “extremely conservative,” with the number of customers almost doubling by 2018.

If growth is less than expected or something else unpredictable comes along, Jackson said these numbers would have to be readjusted.

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