County water authority expands capital budget while board looks to trim operations
By Sean Tubbs
Friday, March 19, 2010
Albemarle County Service Authority
has unveiled a proposed $35 million budget for next fiscal year, a 14.8% increase over the current year. The bulk of the additional expenditures are related to capital improvement projects for the County’s public sewer facilities.
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New revenues in the budget include further increases in connection fees paid by developers for access to ACSA’s water and sewer lines. However, there are no proposed rate increases for the authority’s residential and commercial customers.
Download ACSA’s proposed budget for FY2011
The FY 2011 budget, which includes both operational and capital expenses, allocates $13.1 million for sewer-related projects next year. A key project is a new pump station to replace the aging
Camelot Wastewater Treatment Plant
in northern Albemarle County. Debt for that project will be repaid with the proceeds of a special rate district.
While most of the new spending in the budget is related to building and maintaining infrastructure, the Board of Directors was mostly concerned with finding ways to reduce the authority’s operational costs. The operational budget is proposed to increase by 3%.
“The [Albemarle County] Board of Supervisors is making drastic cuts and they’re not increasing [their] tax rate,” said ACSA Board member John Martin. “It seems to me that we’re obligated to do the same thing.”
As examples, Martin pointed to a request for two new positions in the ACSA’s information technology section. He also said the authority should reduce its budget by only covering training required for employees that need to be certified to operate equipment. Martin also suggested following the county’s example by freezing existing positions if staff determines the new positions are necessary.
“We’re part of government and it seems to me we need to discuss whether or not we’re going to conform our budget policy-wise to what the county’s doing,” Martin said.
Other members of the board agreed with Martin that the operational budget needed to be re-examined.
“I would be hard pressed to vote for a budget that exceeds this year’s budget,” said Richard Carter. “However you cut it, I don’t know.”
The developers who will be asked to provide more of the revenues currently pay four separate fees to connect to the system. Water connection fees will increase by 8%, and sewer fees will increase by 3%.
When all four fees are added up, the cost of connecting a typical new home to the system will increase from a current total of $10,040 to $10,505. The budget projects collecting $2.3 million from fees in the coming year, based on an estimate that 206 new “equivalent residential connections” will be made.
Last year, the ACSA raised water connection fees by 58% and sewer connection fees by 30%.
Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum, a local business advocacy group, said he was glad to see smaller increases, but said the fees could be a challenge for some home builders.
“The development community continues to be challenged by increases in monopolies such as the ACSA,” Williamson said.
A full presentation of the FY 2011 budget will be given by staff to the Board during a work session on April 1. A public hearing will be held at the Board’s regular meeting on April 15.