Utilities News

Utility Commission - May 8, 2017

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Utility Commission approved increases today in water and sewer rates, service availability charges, and disposal rates at the solid waste and construction and demolition landfills for fiscal year 2017-2018. The new rates will take effect Oct. 1.

The rate changes will support the commission's $43.7 million operations budget, $47.8 million debt service budget, and $78.8 capital improvements budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Property taxes do not fund water, sewer or solid-waste disposal services.

The commission approved a 4 percent increase in water rates and a 6 percent increase in sewer rates. The monthly service availability charge for water and sewer service for residential water meters will increase by $1.64 per month. All meters have a monthly fee that is charged regardless of usage. The charge varies by size of meter.

The service availability charges recover a portion of such overhead expenses as meter reading, billing, customer service, and debt-service payments for capital improvements. Water and sewer rates are based on volume and cover the majority of the cost of water and sewer treatment, water distribution and sewer collection.

The 2017 rate adjustments are based on a detailed cost-of-service analysis to ensure that each utility customer pays a proportionate share of the cost to provide services.

With these changes, the monthly charge for the average household in Winston-Salem using 4,500 gallons of water will increase by $3.36 to $46.74, or 11 cents more per day than the average household currently pays. The table below shows how the changes will affect various customers after Oct 1.

Cost per Month  Light User Average Household  Typical Fast Food Restaurant Industrial Customer  High Water Usage Industrial Customer
Current $25.01 $43.39 $514.75 $38,490.88 $212,689.45
$27.44 $46.74 $542.73 $40,474.64 $223,193.91
Net increase $2.43 $3.36 $27.99 $1,983.76 $10,504.46

Utilities Director Courtney Driver noted that the rate increase is driven by the need to generate sufficient revenue to fund capital improvements and on-going debt service payments. The division’s six-year capital improvements plan totals $303.4 million through fiscal year 2022-2023. As of June 30, 2017, the total outstanding revenue bond debt will be $392,640,000.

Driver noted that overall operating expenses will decrease by $97,350 in fiscal year 2017-18. Debt service will increase $7.35 million, to $47.8 million, due to the first installments of repayments for state loans, a projected revenue bond issue in the fall of 2017, and current scheduled payments.

"Increasing rates to our customers is never an easy decision," Driver said. "However, it is required to provide a long-term, safe, reliable and environmentally sound water and sewer system. Some of our infrastructure is 80, 90 and 100 years old. Capital spending is necessary to maintain and update critical infrastructure to protect our environment while providing quality service to our customers."

At the Hanes Mill Road landfill, the disposal rate for the large-volume users will remain unchanged at $32 per ton for large-volume users and $34 per ton for all other users, but the minimum charge will be $10, a $1 increase. The flat rates charged to half-ton pick-ups and small trailers will be $13 per vehicle, a $1 increase. The disposal rate at the Old Salisbury Road landfill for construction and demolition debris will be $32 a ton, a $1 increase, and the minimum will be $10 per vehicle, an increase of $3. The flat rates charged to half-ton pick-ups and small trailers at that site will be $15 per vehicle, an increase of $3. At Overdale and Forum 52 Yard Waste Facilities, the rate will be $31 per ton, an increase of $1.

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