2018-06-14 / Front Page

Council will decide new utility rates this Monday

BY TIM RIEL

Both the sewer and water budgets will increase nearly $15,000 under the administration’s proposal, which is fueled by contractual raises and increased testing mandated by the state.

To finance these upticks, the measure would represent a 2-percent increase on metered excess water and a 5-percent increase in the rate for sewer customers, from $13.19 to $13.85. These hikes are despite new water connections at the Jamestown Terrace condominiums on the former Portuguese American Citizens Club site.

A meeting on these spending plans for fiscal year 2018-19 is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday at Town Hall, 93 Narragansett Ave.

Leading to these proposals, the water department tapped a firm of certified public accountants to do a rate study on the utility. The main takeaway by B&E Consulting accountant David Bebyn was that water usage in town is trending downward, which he attributed to conservation efforts. This can lead to sudden rate changes.

“Fluctuation can have a major impact on your bottom line,” he said. “When you’re dealing with a utility of your size, a $50,000 change in water revenue could be dramatic. With a system like Providence Water, that’s a blip.”

While the water department’s assets are in “reasonably good condition,” according to Bebyn, capital projects have been postponed due to revenue shortfalls. Following the upcoming budget year, he suggested upping the $100,000 capital program by 50 percent.

To avoid confusion, he also recommending renaming the minimum charge to a customer service fee because a true minimum would charge all ratepayers the same amount for the first 5,000 gallons used, which is not the case. Similarly, he suggested renaming the excess charge to a usage fee.

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