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Metro Water pitches 6.3 percent rate hike

Metro Water pitches 6.3 percent rate hike

> 18,000 Foothills, northwest customers would be affected <

About 18,000 customers on the Northwest Side and in the Foothills would see their water bills go up another 6.3 percent under a rate increase proposed by the Metro Water District.

Metro Water — which serves more than 16,000 homes, apartments and businesses on the Northwest Side as well about 1,700 customers near East River and North Kolb roads — will vote on a rate increase at a public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday at its district headquarters, 6265 N. La Cañada Drive.

If approved, average Metro Water customers would see their monthly bills increase by $2.12 to $35.66.

The increase is twofold, Assistant General Manager Warren Tenny said, consisting of a pre-planned annual increase and an additional one-time rate bump.

Metro Water customers voted in March 2005 to approve a $28 million capital-improvement program, which included construction of a 5 million gallon underground reservoir that is being built on Magee Road east of Ina Road.

"When we went to our voters, we told them the way to pay for this was through five 4 percent rate increases," Tenny said. "This is the third of those five."

The 4 percent increase is expected to bring in an additional $470,000 in revenue, Chief Financial Officer Mike Land said.

While that increase will pay for the reservoir, as well as upcoming projects to build new transmission mains and replace older, undersized pipes, the district is also asking for a 2.3 percent adjustment to cover an increase in operation and maintenance costs.

That increase would be only the second time since 1995 that Metro Water raised rates to pay for maintenance and operation, Tenny said, but such an increase is necessary to pay for costs related to upcoming Regional Transportation Authority road projects in the area.

"We're looking at possibly some major water-line relocations," Tenny said. "There's three or four (projects) that go right through our service area, so we're going to be hit."

Land said the average Metro Water customer uses about 10,000 gallons per month, and about 60 percent of customers fall into the district's first tier of water usage, which is up to 12,000 gallons per month.

Those customers will see only a 13-cent increase per 1,000 gallons, while the rest of their increase comes from an 82-cent rise in the monthly base rate.

Though her bill will only go up a few dollars, Metro Water customer Stephanie Segond said she's not happy to have to pay more for water.

"It's already plenty high enough for what I use," Segond said. "But I have no idea what they could do to pay for things other than raise the rates."

Land said the district worked with a rate consultant to determine how best to pass the cost increases along to its customers and said the district has not ruled out altering its tier structure in the future.

"That might be something we'd consider next time," Land said.

Metro Water's low-end tier has the highest ceiling of any area water utility. Oro Valley recently revamped its tiers to put the cutoff for the lowest per-month rate at 7,000 gallons, while Marana Water's low tier caps at 10,000 gallons and Tucson Water's is 11,220 gallons.

Tenny said public hearings for Metro Water's previous rate increases have drawn sparse attendance. He feels this is because the district has in the past been able to address most concerns through a pamphlet it mails out to all customers warning of the proposed rate increase.

"My interpretation was the insert did a decent job of explaining what was happening," Tenny said.

If approved, the new rates will go into effect Nov. 1.

If you go

• What: Public hearing on a proposed rate increase for Metro Water customers.

• Where: Metro Water District headquarters, 6265 N. La Cañada Drive.

• When: 6 p.m. Monday.

• Information: Call 575-8100 or go online to www.metrowater.com.

Water use and costs

The proposed monthly rate structure increase for Metro Water District customers:

Category Current Proposed

Base rate $12.94 $13.76

1st tier(0 to 12,000 gallons) $2.06* $2.19

2nd tier (12,001 to 20,000 gallons) $3.23 $3.43

3rd tier (20,001 to 32,000 gallons) $4.07 $4.33

4th tier (more than 32,000 gallons) $5.42 $5.76

* per 1,000 gallons

According to Metro Water, the average customer uses 10,000 gallons each month. Under the proposed change, average customers would see their monthly bills (not including sewer fees or sales tax) go from $33.54 to $35.66.

● Contact reporter Brian J. Pedersen at 434-4079 or bjp@azstarnet.com.

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