District considering progressive rate structure

By Meg Olson

Point Roberts Water District commissioners have approved an irrigation rate for the golf course but are holding off on a residential rate increase while a new model is being developed that will shift more of the rate burden onto higher use customers and away from small users.

“The way it is now, we pick up a lot of revenue from the base and it’s not fair to people who don’t use a lot of water,” said district manager Dan Bourks. “In the past, we’ve just done solid increases across the board.”

At the May 14 meeting of district commissioners, financial consultant Ashley Emery presented the to-date results of his survey of the district’s rates. Increases in the cost of water, electricity and labor, accompanied by slow growth of the customer base, mean the district will go into the red unless it increases the rates. The district also needs to review planning to address capital needs in coming years including a new office, pressure-reducing valve stations and extensive replacement of old water mains.

Overall, Emery is proposing a 10 percent increase in residential water rates in 2019 and five percent annually for the following four years. However, changes to the rate structure will mean the increase will impact different customers differently. In addition to the tiered set of base rates based on water usage, the district will be using a high impact customer rate that will apply to users with the highest peaking rates and overall average use.

“I am currently reviewing the historical customer usage data to identify the appropriate high usage amount, peaking factor ratio and minimum use to use in conjunction with the peaking factor ratio so that the financial impact of the new charge can be estimated and reviewed by the district,” Emery said.

Bourks said that the district’s general facility charge (GFC) will remain the same in 2019 at $6,590, but that it is based on a 2007 capital facility plan and water comprehensive plan due to be updated, which could impact the GFC in the next round of rate reviews.

Under the now-official irrigation rate, the golf course will see an increased base rate but will be paying $3.50 per 100 cubic feet of water rather than $5.50. The water supplied through the irrigation contract is interruptible and supplied only when the district has excess water to sell over the domestic supply. The water is also untreated nonpotable water.

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