By David Holthaus, NKyTribune reporter
The leadership of Northern Kentucky’s Sanitation District No. 1 held its fourth public meeting on a proposed change in its billing Thursday night, with little in the way of opposition to the plan.
The utility’s management wants to change how service is billed by including a base rate on the monthly statements. Essentially a minimum charge, the base rate would start at $21 a month in 2020 and rise to $34 in 2023.
Some customers would see their bills increase under the proposal; others would see a decline, according to district officials’ calculations.
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Most other water utilities in the region, including Cincinnati, already include a base rate in their billing.
Chaney said adding a base rate to the bills would help prevent steep rate increases in the future.
Several members of the audience said they understood the rationale behind the plan. “The system’s been broken for a long time,” said one. “All you’re proposing is making something equitable and fixing a system that’s broken.”
Complicating the utility’s finances has been a steady decline in water consumption. Consumption has declined, on average, more than 1 percent for each of the last five years, Chaney said. That’s largely due to wider use of high-efficiency toilets, dishwashers and washing machines.
Because of the decline in consumption, and with billing based on consumption, rate increases have been necessary to maintain a consistent level of revenue.
Without the base charge, future rate increases would likely be much higher than they will be with it, Chaney said.
“I’d rather throw $25 in the pot now than come up with $150 later,” said another who attended. “Why didn’t they do this a long time ago?”
Because of the current billing structure, Chaney said customers who use a high volume of water have been subsidizing those who use low volumes.
In general, under the base rate proposal, high volume users will see their bills decrease, while low-volume users will see theirs increase, Chaney said.
In year one of the base rate plan, 54,407 accounts would see an increase in their bills, while 42,270 would see a decrease, district officials have calculated.
Cheney said no customer would see an increase of more than $5 per month in any of the first four years of the proposed plan.
Some in the audience did criticize the district for not getting the word out enough about the public hearings on the plan. Chaney acknowledged it would have been a good idea to have notified customers of the meetings in their bills.
“We’ll do a better job next time,” he said.
The board of Sanitation District 1 unanimously approved the plan in April. The fiscal courts of Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties will also vote on it, with the district needing two of the three to vote yes in order to move forward with implementation.
The issue is expected to be on the agenda of the May 14 meeting of the Kenton County Fiscal Court.