Whitewater sets increased water rates

Whitewater residents can expect to pay up to 46 percent more on their water bills to help offset the increased costs of water rates throughout the state.

Brunner

The city applied to the Public Service Commission on April 29 for authority to increase water rates. Approval was given by the committee earlier this month.

The Water Utility filed the application for a rate increase last May and the public hearing was held in September.

“This is something that we’ve been planning for quite some time,” City Manager Kevin Brunner said. “We haven’t had a water rate increase in the city since 2004.”

The new water rates will go into effect with the December utility bills payable in January 2012.

Brunner said residents can expect to see the increase in their next water bill.

According to Whitewater Municipal Water Utility, the water service rates set forth in the final decision is an estimated net operating income of $362,125. The income provides a 6 percent return on the water utility net investment base rate of $6,035,402.

Brunner said the increased rates will vary depending on the customer type, consumption and size of the water meter.

Whitewater classifies water customers into four different groups: residential, commercial, industrial and institutional.

Residential customers can expect to pay anywhere between 16 to 46 percent more.

Commercial customers are faced with an estimated 10 to 26 percent increase.

Customers of the industrial group are faced with a general increase of 24 to 29 percent.

Institutional customers, such as UW-Whitewater, and the Whitewater School District, will see an increase between 24 and 35 percent.

With the addition of new residence halls, the commission said the university could see an increased water usage.

Brunner, however, said the new units will be more water efficient, reducing the water usage for the university.

Meter sizes, which vary anywhere between 5/8 inch and 12 inches, also are a factor in the amount increased.

All customer classes also have to pay a general service charge on their meters. A customer with a 5/8 inch meter can expect to pay $7.10 per month, while a customer with a larger meter size, like the university, could pay up to $329 per month depending on the exact size of the meter.

Brunner said the reason for the increase is a combination of both operating costs and capital costs.

“Our rates before they were increased were the lowest by 20 percent of all Wisconsin water utilities,” Brunner said. “Even with the new rate, we’re still the lowest rate across the border.”

Earlier this year, Whitewater decided to switch to a monthly billing process for the utility water bill.

Brunner said the city decided to switch to the monthly bills rather than quarterly because residents can budget their money in an easier manner.

Brunner added the new online pay tool will help customers pay their bills faster.

The city installed an automated meter reading system in October, saving the city from sending out people to read meters.

Brunner said he doesn’t think students renting throughout the city will be too great affected.

“The majority of students’ water bills are for sewer,” Brunner said. “Water is only about 30 percent of the bill so students will probably only see a $10 to $15 increase per month on water.”

Brunner said the cost of water has gone up throughout the state, causing Whitewater to have to increase its water rates.

Providing a clean and adequate water supply has gone up, but Brunner said he always tells people “water is essential and you can’t live without it, so the cost of providing that everyday clean water has gone up a little, but we are still below the average in the state.”

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