New method for water and sewer rates approved
By Lisa Brody
Following a previous study session and public hearing, Bloomfield Township trustees approved setting a new method for setting water and sewer rates at their meeting on Monday, March 14, one that initially does not include charging for secondary water meters, with subsequent years following up with a plan to charge for those who have added a secondary water meter at their home.
Olivia Olsztyn-Budry explained that the end of the current rate year is approaching, with water and sewer rates for fiscal year 2022-2023 scheduled to be presented to trustees on April 11. A new rate structure is needed so that staff can finalize rates prior to the meeting.
Since 2000, the township’s water purchase from its supplier, Detroit Water and Sewer Department (DWSD)/Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) and South Oakland County Water Authority (SOCWA), has been generally decreasing, with annual fluctuations due to weather. “It is anticipated that the water purchase trend will continue to decline both from customer’s conserving water and more water efficient facilities available for new homes and updated homes. Even if all expenses remained the same in the future years, water and sewer rates would continue to increase due to the declining trend in water purchases,” she said.
Olsztyn-Budry explained that over the past several months, Raftelis has been working with the township in developing the water and sewer financial plan and considering rate options and impacts. She said operating expenses include the costs for the purchase of water from SOCWA and the purchase of sewage conveyance and treatment in the Evergreen Farmington Sewage Drain (EFSD) by the Oakland County Water Resource Commissioner's Office (WRC). Operating expenses also include the local township costs such as personnel costs, repair and maintenance, and many others.
Olsztyn-Budry said about 87 percent of the township's water and sewer customers are single family residential, about three percent are commercial and about 10 percent are multi-family. Of the customers, about 67 percent of the total residential water and sewer customers use 20 units (20,000 gallons) or less per quarter. About 93 percent of the total residential water and sewer customers use 40 units (40,000 gallons) per quarter or less.
The township currently has fixed charges: there is the debt charge per residential equivalent unit, called REU based on usage and the readiness to serve (RTS) per customer, which is a flat rate charged regardless of size.
The choices before trustees were to consolidate RTS and Debt Charges (REU) into a single charge based on customer meter size; apply fixed charges to secondary irrigation meters, of which about 3,000 water customers currently have, or to maintain uniform volume charge for quarterly billing schedule rather than to switch to monthly billing.
After a great deal of discussion between trustees, who felt it was important to phase in the billing of secondary meters rather than to just add it this fiscal year, trustees unanimously voted on plan 2A for this fiscal year, and switch to plan 2B for fiscal year 2023-2024, which will include a secondary meter charge.