In order to address a recurring shortfall in revenue and fairly assess annual costs based on actual use, the Southington Town Council has approved a number of changes to its sewer rate structure and billing methods, beginning in July.
Currently, the system relies exclusively on water used during winter months to calculate bills that estimate customers’ full-year sewer use. This approach resulted in unfair, biased billing that was consistently unable to keep pace with the costs of the sewer system and triggered frequent, dramatic rate increases every couple of years.
The new rate structure will provide an equitable solution to satisfy the revenue requirements and more evenly distribute associated costs among ratepayers, based on actual use, rather than unfairly burdening a select few. The rate change will capture an additional 16 percent of the required revenue, which is currently not being collected.
Residents who use private wells and private septic systems and currently pay no sewer bill will see no change.
As a reminder, the annual bills for 2013-2014 that residents will receive in April, May and June of this year will be based on the old system.
For customers using public water and public sewer: Beginning with the new fiscal year, residents on public water and sewer can expect to receive quarterly bills that more accurately reflect their actual sewer usage.
Starting in July 2014, residents using public water and sewer will receive a quarterly bill with two parts: a fixed rate and a variable rate. The fixed rate will be assessed in one of three separate categories: residential, commercial, or industrial. The variable rate will be assessed based on actual water usage.
In order to close the current funding shortage, the average current rate will increase by 10 percent.
The residential annual fixed rate is $180.00, per household, billed at $45.00 per quarter. The variable rate was reduced from $4.33/100 cubic feet (CF) to $3.00/100 CF. The commercial annual fixed rate is $250, per establishment, billed at $62.50 per quarter. The variable rate was reduced from $4.33/100 cubic feet (CF) to $4.20/100 CF. The industrial annual fixed rate is $250, per establishment, billed at $62.50 per quarter. The variable rate was reduced from $4.33/100 cubic feet (CF) to $3.30/100 CF.
Variable rates will be calculated using the same water meter readings used by the Southington Water Department to calculate its quarterly water bills. In addition to breaking down customers into residential, commercial and industrial users, the new structure also distinguishes between customers serviced by public water and private wells.
For customers using private wells and public sewer: Customers using private wells and public sewer will be charged an annual flat rate based on the type of use (residential, commercial, or industrial). These customers will not be assessed a variable rate based on consumption.
The residential annual fixed well rate is $400 per household, billed at $100.00 per quarter. The commercial annual fixed well rate is $650 per establishment, billed at $162.50 per quarter. The industrial annual fixed well rate is $700.00 per establishment, billed at $175.00 per quarter.
Customers can use the “Worksheet for Meter Calculation” provided on the Sewer Department’s webpage to determine if a well meter or an irrigation meter would benefit them. If so, they are directed to the “Procedure for the Purchase and Installation of a Second Water Meter” also on the Sewer Department webpage. Customers on wells who elect to install water meters will be billed a flat rate and a variable rate as described above. Customers who install irrigation meters will have the volume of water used for irrigation but didn’t enter the town’s sewer system subtracted from their sewer bill for that quarter. In each case the cost to purchase and install the second meter will be the customer’s responsibility.
Low-income senior citizens: Low-income senior citizens who are currently income qualified by the Assessor’s Office to receive lower tax rates will be eligible to receive lower fixed well rates of $150 (annually), billed at $37.50 per quarter for an individual and $300 (annually), billed at $75 per quarter for a couple.
The annual income thresholds currently are $34,100 for an individual and $41,600 for a couple.
Low-income customers who are not senior citizens may appeal the rate increase to the town manager.