Utilities News

Utility Commission - May 12, 2014 
The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utility Commission approved increases today in water and sewer rates, utility service base charges, and disposal rates at yard waste facilities and the construction and demolition landfill to support its $85.4 million budget for fiscal year 2014-2015. The new rates will take effect Oct. 1.

The commission approved a 4.5 percent increase in water rates and a 6.7 percent increase in sewer rates. Additionally, the monthly base charges for water and sewer service (flat fees charged regardless of usage) would increase $1.24.

With the increases, the monthly bill for the average household in Winston-Salem using 4,500 gallons of water will be $39.44 or $1.30 a day, or 10 cents more a day than the $1.20 that the average household currently pays. View the table showing how the changes will affect various customers after Oct 1. [pdf] 
Despite the increase, Utilities Director Ron Hargrove noted that Winston-Salem continues to offer competitive water and sewer rates when compared to North Carolina’s largest cities. Next year the estimated average monthly water and sewer bill with a consumption of 4,500 gallons will be $38.48 in Greensboro, $56.90 in Raleigh, $51.44 in Durham, and $49.66 in Charlotte.

“This rate increase is driven by our need to generate sufficient revenues to fund all operating expenses and debt service coverage. Increasing rates to our customers is never an easy decision; yet, it is a decision that is required to provide a long-term, safe, reliable and environmentally sound water and sewer system,” Hargrove said.

Hargrove noted that most of the rate increase is needed to cover the cost of capital improvements to maintain the utilities system. The operating budget will increase by only $313,410, while the debt service portion of the budget will increase by $1,328,540. “We continue to hold our operating costs as flat as possible to minimize the rate increase on our customers,” Hargrove said.

Under the rate structure adopted by the Utility Commission five years ago, customers will continue to be rewarded for their efforts to reduce their water usage. Smaller usage is billed at a lower rate. As usage increases, so does the cost of water.

Existing and future capital projects that this year’s rate increase will support include:

· Increasing the sewer capacity in the South Fork Basin, which includes almost 65,000 people in the Kernersville and southeast portions of Forsyth County.

· Building a sewer lift station on Harper Road and expanding another to improve sewer service to customers in Clemmons and Lewisville.

· Relocating water and sewer pipes necessitated by state road projects.

· Repairs and upgrades to the pump station at Idols Dam on the Yadkin River, where Utilities operates a water intake for the Neilson and Thomas water plants.

· Replacing/repairing water and sewer pipes and manholes that are 70 and 80 years old.

· Relocating the Reedy Fork Lift Station in Kernersville.

· Repairs and upgrades to four water tanks.

· Improvements to the water distribution and wastewater collection systems.

Among the commission’s solid-waste disposal facilities, the disposal rate at the Hanes Mill Road Landfill will remain unchanged at $34 per ton. Users who receive a volume discount will pay $31 a ton, an increase of $1. The disposal rate at the Old Salisbury Road landfill for construction & demolition debris will be $29 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 be $30 a ton, a $1 increase.

The rate increases are contained in the $85.4 million operating budget the commission recommended for fiscal year 2014-2015. The budget includes $42.1 million for operating costs and $43.3 million debt service for revenue bonds. As of June 30, 2014, the total outstanding revenue bond debt will be $461,890,000.

Based on its bond ratings, operating record, rate structure, and supply of raw water, the water and sewer system operated by the Utility Commission continues to be one of the most economical systems in North Carolina.
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