Instead of water rates increasing in Christiansburg, council has been given a recommendation that will decrease the rate.
The average user will see a decrease in both water and sewer rates over the next four years. In year five, the charge to a “minimum water user” would still be down but up slightly over Year One. Large users will see a big jump.
Aging equipment and a rising need for increasing capacity has the New River Valley Regional Water Authority looking at an immediate need for upgrades at its Peppers Ferry Road plant that could cost as much as $55 million dollars. That staggering figure has been at the heart of recent discussions by Blacksburg, Christiansburg and Montgomery leaders with concerns by residents that their water fees would be rising.
The authority has approved a step scale that would increase its price per 5,000 gallons of water to each member by five percent this coming fiscal year, and then six percent in 2018. The cost could jump to 38 percent in 2019 and then fall back to 2.6 in 2020 and 2021. The water authority’s board approved this increase late last year.
Thus, each locality would then see its expense rise. Christiansburg has been debating several options, and this week town staff presented a plan that would not drastically affect its residents.
Councilman Brad Stipes said the new option could convince people to conserve water. “If they use the minimum amount, they will not see a major increase,” he said.
Where the mark jumps to a 27.9 percent increase in the first year is at the 3,000 gallon mark. The biggest increase starts at 7,000 gallons where rates increase by 28.5 percent.
The current minimum rate for water is $11, but would drop to $6 in FY18, $7 for FY19, $8 in FY20, $9 in FY21, and $10 in FY22.
The sewer rate currently carries a minimum of $15. Under the new plan, FY18 would have a minimum of $9 with FY19-FY21 being $10.
Almost every council member in Tuesday’s work session were pleased with the solution.
Councilman Cord Hall said the town must stick with this five-year plan, and future councils should accept it instead of having the urge to change it later down the road.
The new fee structure comes on the heels of discussion about the town’s upcoming budget. Tuesday, council members were told they would be receiving a balanced budget that would not require a tax increase this coming year.
Acting Town Manager Randy Wingfield said there would be a slight increase in a utility fee from $2.50 to $3 but no other increase would fall back on residents.
Council expects a draft budget to be unveiled during Tuesday’s regularly scheduled meeting. A public hearing would be held on the matter in the next two weeks, and then the governmental body would vote on the budget.