Years of escalating rate increases for customers of the Williamsport Municipal Water and Sanitary Authorities may be coming to an end.
Budgets for fiscal year 2013 were adopted in separate votes taken Wednesday by the authorities.
"Although the budgets do not anticipate an increase in user rates, a final determination will not be made until late September," said John Baker, the authorities' director of finance. "We will monitor our actual revenues and expenses over the next couple of months, but are optimistic that if they track closely to the adopted budgets, user rates may remain stable."
The rate increases over the past five years have been imposed to fund about $125 million upgrades to wastewater treatment plants, he said.
Those improvements were mandated by the state Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce nutrients from entering the Chesapeake Bay watershed and reduce combined sewer overflows.
"Now that the funding is in place, we're looking at rates remaining stable," Baker said.
On average, a household using 52,000 gallons a year, pays $808 annually, he said.
The water authority budget shows an ongoing decline in metered water consumption starting July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013.
Budgeted revenues of $8.6 million are 2.2 percent lower than anticipated.
"We still have concerns about escalating operational costs and inflation," Baker said.
Operation and administrative expenses are expected to be 7.8 percent higher, at $6.9 million.
The water authority plans to spend $18 million over the next three years in distribution system upgrades.
On the sanitary side, the budget reflects an anticipated reduction in metered volumes, however, budgeted revenues of $14 million are 14.6 percent higher than the current year-end forecast. That's due primarily to the increase in user rates established in January, which rose by 25 percent.
"That increase was announced at the time as potentially the last major increase resulting from the mandated upgrades to the authorities' sewage treatment plants," Baker said.
Additionally, another $450,000 expense is anticipated due to the need to purchase nutrient credits during the first year of removing nitrogen and phosphorus.
The sewer treatment plants are designed to remove these nutrients, but construction is not complete and the units that do that job may not be activated in time to meet the nutrient reductions required in the first compliance year.
The sanitary authority expects a 39.8 percent increase in overall operating and administrative expenses, and more than $50 million spent during the next three years.
Budgeted capital costs are due to the remaining work at the treatment plants and planned upgrades to the sewer system within the city, Baker said.