The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utility Commission approved on Monday a 7 percent increase in water rates and a 9 percent increase in sewer rates, effective Oct 1. The increase will help pay for capital improvements to the water and sewer system and cover increased operating costs driven by rising fuel prices.
With the rate increase, the bimonthly water and sewer bill for the average household in Winston-Salem would be $57.44, an increase of 7 cents a day.
Utilities officials noted that even with the increase, Winston-Salem continues to maintain some of the lowest water and sewer rates in the Southeast, and the lowest among North Carolina’s largest cities. Currently the estimated average bimonthly water and sewer bill is $93.37 in Greensboro, $70.49 in Raleigh, $96.85 in Charlotte, and $89.03 in Durham.
The rate increases are contained in the $68.2 million operating budget the commission approved for fiscal year 2008-2009. The budget includes $42.2 million for operating costs and $24.5 million debt service for revenue bonds.
Capital improvements over the next six years are expected to be $335.8 million, including rebuilding the R.A. Thomas Water Treatment Plant, updating the Ellege Wastewater Treatment Plant, and replacing aging water and sewer lines in the City’s older neighborhoods.
The City County Utilities Commission issues debt in the form of Revenue Bonds to pay for these projects. The total outstanding debt in the utilities system is $329.9 million and is projected to be $419.1 million in another year.
Customers with separate meters for irrigation systems will see the most significant increase. The commission voted to discontinue the discount rate for irrigation meters. Starting Oct. 1, all irrigation meters will be billed at the first-tier rate of $1.841 per 100 cubic foot of water consumed.
The water and sewer system operated by the Utility Commission continues to be one of the most economical systems in North Carolina, based on bond ratings, its operating record, its rate structure, and its supply of raw water.