Water price increases expected for Gateway next year

Posted on December 20, 2018, 10:16 am
5 mins

The results of a recently completed water and sewer rate study by Willdan Financial Services will be presented to Gateway’s Board of Supervisors next month.

We have some good news and bad news. And then some additional good news. (And then some more bad news.)

The good news is that you’ve been underpaying for water and irrigation services for a very long time. The bad news is that the district now realizes that … and they plan to increase rates on irrigation water and on households with above-average potable water use.

The additional good news items are that first, Gateway will remain having some of the lowest costs in the region even after the increases; and second, households who use less than 6,000 gallons per month in potable water won’t pay any more in 2019 than they do now. There are increases of about 3% per year afterwards, however.

Under existing rates, those using more than 6,000 gallons already see incremental increases. For example, right now you pay $3.27 per 1,000 gallons of potable under 6,000 … and that currently goes up to $4.35 per 1000 gallons for the 6,000 to 12,000 gallon block. Under the proposed new rate structure, the $4.35 would become $4.91 for the 6,000 to 12,000 gallon block.

For those households at the highest level of usage in Gateway, which is anything over 24,000 gallons per month, you’re currently paying $7.83/1000 gallons over 24,000. Under the proposed new rate structure that amount would jump to $9.81 per 1000 gallons for anything over 24,000.

The sewage/wastewater charge is currently $5.47 per 1000 gallons regardless of the number of gallons, and that amount would remain the same under the new rate structure.

Commercial entities have a slightly different set-up. Businesses pay $3.27/1000 gallons for the first 6,000 gallons and then are charged a flat rate of $4.35/1000 gallons for anything over 6,000 gallons.

While the $3.27 will remain the same, businesses in Gateway will be paying $4.91 per 1000 gallons after 6,000 gallons of usage.

Even with the proposed increases Gateway would still have lower water bills at 6,000 gallons than utilities operated by Lee County, Collier County, Charlotte County, Cape Coral and Fort Myers.

Now. Irrigation water.

This is where you will want to pay attention.

The Gateway Sun has received separate information that the current rate for irrigation water is $0.30 per 1000 gallons, and $0.31 per 1000 gallons. Either way, the rate study discovered that the GSCDD has actually been losing money on irrigation water, presumably for many years.

That will no longer be the case, as the cost you pay for irrigation water will be increasing by over 65%.

For the first 25,000 gallons of irrigation water you currently pay $0.30 or $0.31 per 1000 gallons, which will increase to $0.50 per thousand. From 25,000 to 50,000 gallons usage you’re currently paying $1.20 per 1000, which will jump to $2.00 per 1000. And anything over 50,000 gallons you currently pay $2.40 per 1000, which will now cost $4.00 per kilogallon (if that’s a thing).

As a result of all these changes, the GSCDD expects to go from losing money on irrigation water to turning a district-wide profit of approximately $240,000 on irrigation water.

With all the above changes combined, the water utility is now expected to increase its 2019 profit from about $269,000 to $580,000 for the year.

For the five-year period this rate study covers (2019-2023), the expected water utility profit is expected to be $1,835,000. Presumably, a new rate study would be conducted for 2024 and beyond.

None of the above rate increase proposals have been approved by the Board of Supervisors. In fact they’re probably first learning about them through this article.

Willdan representatives will be attending the GSCDD meeting on January 3, 2019 to present their study. At that point the board will vote on whether or not to implement the cost increases some time in 2019. After-which there would be a public hearing, likely in February 2019.

Given how low water rates are in Gateway compared to the rest of the region, and that the profit the utility currently makes seems small, I don’t see how the board can reject the proposed new rates. But we’ll see.

Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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