Belleville Water Utility Requests Water Rate Increase
May 14, 2020
A Public Hearing will be held on Wednesday, May 13, 2020, at 3:30 p.m., concerning an application filed by the village with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) to increase water rates. The increase, requested by the Belleville Municipal Water and Sewer Utility, is necessary due to a 31.07 percent increase in gross plant investment and a 47.49 percent increase in operating expenses since the last water rate case was completed in March 2018. Everyone is invited to provide comments as outlined on the PSC Public Hearing notice - see box for more information.
In the Village’s Comprehensive guide to the water rate increase, which can be found here, https://medium.com/@villageofbelleville/a-comprehensive-guide-to-bellevilles-water-rate-increase-3751f76be702, the question of the increase in the rates at this time is addressed. The guide notes that rate increase process began over 18 months ago, and the application was filed with the PSC in July 2019. Although the timing is unfortunate due to concerns with the COVID-19 public health emergency and financial fallout, the process is time sensitive and would incur costs if it had to start all over. Plus the delay in starting over would make the projected revenues for the water utility fall short of making debt service payments related to the financing of the Municipal Well #3 project.
The total increase in water revenues requested is $206,081, which will result in an estimated overall rate increase of 50.05 percent over the water utility’s present revenues. If the request is granted, the water bill for an average residential customer with a 5⁄8-inch or 3⁄4-inch meter who uses 3,000 gallons of water per month will increase from $28.60 to $42.24, or 47.69% (including the public fire protection charge).
According to information provided by Belleville Village Administrator Brian Wilson, on June 13, 2018, the Village Board approved the issuance and sale of $1,490,842 in Water System Revenue Bonds through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Safe Drinking Water Loan Program (SDWLP) at an annual interest rate of 1.87% for a period of twenty years. This debt was incurred to pay for the engineering and construction of Municipal Well #3. The Water Utility will begin making debt service payments on this DNR loan in 2020.
The Village of Belleville has three municipal wells; the third well had been planned for over a decade, and construction on that third well was completed in 2019. It was noted that the developers of the West Side expansion were required to dedicate land to the Village for that well construction. Since Municipal Well #3 will serve the entire Village and not just new development on the West Side, developers were not required to pay for the new well. However, other infrastructure such as water mains in the West Side were paid for and installed by the developers and turned over to the water utility.
Addressing the issue of the proposed rate increase, the guide provided stated that the average home uses approximately 3,000 gallons of water per month at a base cost of $28.60, which includes fire protection charges but not sewer charges. The proposed water rate increase would increase the bill on 3,000 gallons of water to $42.24 per month, which includes the fire protection charges. This is an average increase of $13.64. The rate increase will not increase the sewer portion of the bill.
After the Public Hearing, the Public Service Commission will provide a decision regarding the proposed rate increase. Normally if an increase is approved the change goes into effect the first billing cycle after the decision. However, the Village of Belleville has requested that the rate increase be delayed until at least 180 days after the end of the current public health emergency. However, if the increase is approved it must be implemented by the December 2020 billing to meet 2021 water utility revenue requirements.