Water, sewer agencies expect rate hike looms

Williamsport Municipal Water and Sanitary Authority on Wednesday approved budgets for 2015 that may result in increases in user rates to be determined later this year.

“Although the budgets do anticipate an increase in user rates, a final determination will not be made until late September,” said John Baker, director of finance at the authority. “We will monitor our actual revenues and expenses over the next few months, confirming budget assumptions and projections. With the necessary capital projects planned by the water authority, along with annual inflationary increases in all areas of our operating expenses for both authorities, user rates are anticipated to increase.”

The votes were separate, one for water and another for the sanitary authority

The water authority budget reflects an ongoing decline in metered water consumption for the fiscal year, starting July 1 and ending June 30, 2015, Baker said.

Budgeted revenues of $8.3 million are 2.4 percent lower than the anticipated at the current year-end forecast, while operating and administrative expenses are expected to be 4.9 percent higher, at $7.3 million, he said.

In addition, the authority is committing over $16 million in capital spending over the next two years, primarily in distribution system upgrades, main replacement and projects.

Funding for the projects will come from existing bond proceeds, projected board restricted cash balances, and new debt, Baker said.

Any new debt would be a loan through Pennvest, a state agency that provides low-interest loans for infrastructure upgrades, he added.

Meanwhile, the sanitary authority’s budget also reflects an anticipated reduction in metered volumes; however budgeted revenues of $14.9 million are 7.2 percent higher than the current year-end forecast.

The authority’s budgeted expenses reflect increased costs of operating the newly constructed projects at the treatment facilities, Baker said. Operating and administrative expenses are projected to be 15.9 percent higher, totaling $11 million, he said.

The authority has committed over $14 million in capital spending over the next two years for completion of the second-phase work at both the Central and West plants.

Funding for the capital plan will come primarily from existing bond proceeds and board restricted cash balances.

“No additional borrowing is required,” Baker said.

In other action, the water authority received a Five-Year Directors Award from the Partnership for Safe Water for commitment to superior water quality.

“The goal of the Partnership for Safe Water is to provide a higher quality of drinking water and not just to meet regulatory requirements,” said Wendy Walter, director of compliance safety and security at the authority. It is a voluntary program that promotes optimizing the treatment plant performance and exceeding requirements whenever possible.

“It is certainly a tribute to our dedicated staff,” she said.