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Water, sewer rate hikes proposed

March 14, 2007|by TAMELA BAKER

HAGERSTOWN - County water and sewer rates could go up an average of 3.5 percent for residential water users and 3.4 percent for residential sewer customers if proposed rates are adopted for fiscal year 2008, which begins July 1.

Washington County officials waded into the Department of Water Quality's fiscal 2008 budget requests Tuesday, when the new rate proposals were presented. Julie Pippel, the department's acting director, said the rate proposals should generate a 3 percent increase in sewer revenue and a 4 percent increase in water revenue.

If approved, the quarterly residential base rate of $75.10 for 6,000 gallons would go up $2.40 to $77.50 for water service. The volume rate for each additional 1,000 gallons would rise from $7.25 to $7.55.

Using those figures, Pippel calculated the average residential customer using 12,000 gallons of water per quarter would see a total bill increase of $4.20 per quarter.

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The quarterly residential base rate for sewer service would go from $80.70 for 6,000 gallons to $83.50. The volume rate for each additional 1,000 gallons would go from $4.50 to $4.64. Pippel calculated that the average residential customer using 12,000 gallons per quarter would see a total quarterly bill increase of $3.64, from $107.70 to $111.34.

Commercial rates fall into two categories for water service: Commercial I base rates would rise from $75.10 to $77.50, with additional volume rates going from $7.60 to $8 per 1,000 gallons. Commercial II base rates would go from $90 to $95, with additional volume rates rising from $6.85 to $6.90 per 1,000.

For sewer service, commercial rates fall into three categories: Commercial I base sewer rates would rise from $80.70 to $83.50, with volume rates remaining at $6.06. Commercial II and Commercial III base sewer rates would rise from $97.45 to $99. Commercial II volume rates would remain at $7.80 per 1,000 gallons, and Commercial III volume rates would remain at $5.25 per 1,000.

Another proposal to raise sewer connection fees from $3,500 to $5,900 drew an objection from Commissioner James F. Kercheval, who didn't like the $2,400 increase. He proposed the county review its sewer allocation fees based on usage.

"I'd like to see us change the policy rather than the fee," he said.

The county's water fund budget proposal for fiscal 2008 reflects an overall reduction of $412,070 from the current budget, from $1.7 million to nearly $1.3 million. But it also reflects a reduction in money the county transferred to the fund from its general fund. Pippel said the goal is to have the fund self-supporting by 2012 and to eliminate general fund contributions altogether.

The sewer fund budget proposal reflects a 7.3 percent increase from the current budget, from $9.9 million to $10.7 million. Most of the increase is to cover the costs of wages and benefits, Pippel said.

The department's budget proposal for its administration fund shows a decrease in both revenues and expenses, partly because of a reduction of development activity in the county, she said. The total budget proposal is $3.5 million, down from the current budget of $3.66 million.

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