For the second year in a row, the

Albemarle County Service Authority

will not raise monthly water and sewer rates for its customers.

“We wanted to remain mindful of the area’s continued economic distress,” said Lisa Breeden, finance director for the ACSA.

However, fees paid by developers to connect to the system are being raised 6 percent overall in order to support further investment in the system.






CAPTION

“As the community grows, and as development increases, we will see a continuing reliance on new connection fees paying for the growth,” wrote executive director

Gary O’Connell

in his summary for the ACSA’s proposed $30.4 million budget for fiscal year 2012.

The budget also includes a $10.6 million capital improvement program.

Projects range from water main replacements for the Key West subdivision ($335,000) and Buckingham Circle neighborhood ($530,000) to the extension of a water main on Hardware Street in Scottsville ($392,800). The biggest project in the capital improvement program is $5.6 million for ongoing construction of the

North Fork sewer pump station

serving the development area along U.S. 29 North.

The capital budget is supported in part from a bond sale of nearly $5.9 million as well as an anticipated $3 million in one-time connection fees. That figure is based on a projected 260 new water connections and 255 new sewer connections.

The ACSA charges developers two separate fees to recoup the cost of building the existing water and sewer system. The system development fee covers the ACSA’s infrastructure, and the other goes to pay for facilities operated by the

Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority

.

The system development fee for each water connection will remain the same at $1,772, but the RWSA fee for water will increase by 3 percent to $3,940 per connection.

For sewer connections, the system development fee will rise 12 percent to $2,404 and the RWSA capacity fee by 9 percent to $2,998. That means it will cost $11,114 for each new sewer connection, a 6 percent increase overall.

Neil Williamson of the

Free Enterprise Forum

said he is satisfied that the formula that derived the fee increases is valid.

“The ACSA continues to make significant investment that is in many cases being paid for by the new development that needs these increases in capacity,” Williamson said. “This is example of development paying its way.”

However, he said the increases would make it harder for developers to offer affordable housing, as they will add the fees to the cost of each home.

“As connection fees rise over $11,000, you’re talking about that representing around 5 percent of the price of a $200,000 home,” Williamson said.

The increase in connection fees is much less dramatic than the one enacted two years ago, when the system development fee increased by 58 percent and the RWSA capacity charge increased by 30 percent.

Monthly rates for businesses and consumers will remain flat, despite an increase in the wholesale rate the ACSA will pay to the RWSA for water and sewer service. For water, the RWSA will charge $3.39 per 1,000 gallons, an increase of 2.57 percent. For sewer, the ACSA will pay $3.348 per 1,000 gallons, an increase of 8.56 percent.

All ACSA residential customers pay a monthly service charge based on the size of their connection, and are billed for usage according to a tiered pricing structure.

“I think it’s pretty remarkable we’re having no water and sewer rate increases, particularly given our wholesale rate is almost up 10 percent from the RWSA,” O’Connell said.

O’Connell also said his staff has planned for capital increases over many years so it can avoid big spikes in rate increases.

“A lot of utilities don’t do that,” O’Connell added.

The city of Charlottesville is not prepared to release its water rates, according to finance director Bernard Wray.

A work session on May 5 will be the first of many meetings before a final public hearing on the ACSA budget is held June 16.

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