Utility Rates Heading Up

2009 July 15
by Chuck Shotton

For those who missed the town council work session on Monday, they saved the best for last. The short story is that the council is considering up to a 60% increase in water and sewer rates. Leesburg Today has a more complete article on what is going on.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I am a member of the town’s Utility Rate Advisory Committee (URAC). And in the interests of being fair to all concerned, this rate hike has absolutely nothing to do with the URAC or its recommendations to the council. In fact, 5 months of hard work by the URAC established a 2-year rate plan that accommodated out-of-town customers and moved the town to a much more fair, tiered rate plan that rewarded conservation and forced heavy water users to pay accordingly. Unfortunately, that set of URAC rate proposals was never seriously considered by the council and has been discarded in favor of proposals from outside paid consultants.

Here’s the rub. At the end of the day, these new rates are being designed to ensure there is enough income to operate the town’s water and sewer plants. But what they are failing to address, as any competently run business should address, is the expense side of the equation. Not once during the URAC deliberations were we allowed to address the expenses for operations and capital improvements. And every dollar of expense saved is that much less income that is required from water and sewer customers.

Anyone speaking at the public hearings on July 28th or later should certainly consider asking what is being done to rein in the huge cost of capital projects for water and sewer, along with asking what changes have been contemplated to reduce operating expenses. I’m guessing not much since it is a lot easier to just raise the rates than it is to cut costs.

One Response
  1. 10:36pm July 15 2009

    Thanks for reviving your blog, Chuck. Good work!
    I would very much like to examine expenditures, including personnel. That’s the largest cost in the whole department, and I would like to revisit the URAC recommendations, too. I would welcome town residents speaking out on this issue at the July 24 hearing.

    Frank Holtz posted this tonight and it is a pretty good summation. Take a look and please comment:

    This way I look at it as a committee member and a citizen.

    This will end some political careers in Leesburg if the town cannot come up with sufficient cuts in the utility department to offset increases. People simply cannot afford utility increases in the current financial climate.

    The town council needs to make cuts in capital outlays, new equipment, and staff if necessary to balance the utility budget instead of on the backs of the citizens who are already overtaxed in Leesburg. The council and the department heads have been at the trough too long with the out of town money and can’t diet themselves away from it.

    Some management personel should step down if they cannot find the cuts necessary to maintain the current level of water/sewer services with no more than a very modest increase. Everyone is expecting something but certainly not upwards of 60%! Cuts can come from elsewhere in the town’s budget including the airport, parks & recreation, and such if necessary. This sort of increase will force some people on the edge financially to loose their homes. People have to have water to survive! To raise the costs to such levels is to force some to decide between being able to keep their homes, or having food and medicines.

    in good conscience I could not suport a vote for anyone who supported such an outrageous increase in water and sewer rates.

    Frank Holtz
    Utility Rate Advisory Committee Member

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