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Sewer rates to decrease

WORTHINGTON — Sewer rates are decreasing next year for customers of Worthington Public Utilities.

According to Manager Scott Hain, the Water and Light Commission decided to use reserve funds to hold the rates steady during its Monday meeting.

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“We’re actually utilizing $274,700 in reserve funds in the wastewater budget this year,” Hain said.

Because of that money injected into the budget, the usage charge is going to stay the same, with the connection charge decreasing.

“Ultimately, what happened is the usage charge per 1,000 gallons is going to stay exactly the same,” Hain said, adding that the current rate is $2.99. “That is exactly the same at 2013. The connection charge actually is decreasing from $15.23 down to $14.44, so a 79-cent decrease in the connection charge.

“Essentially, what that means because every sewer customer pays a connection charge and the usage charge stayed exactly the same, every sewer customer is going to see a 79-cent decrease in their monthly sewer bill.”

Originally, the commission authorized $183,700 in reserves to be used. However, an additional $91,000 created the decrease in the overall rate.

“The commission was aware of the increase of the wholesale costs of Missouri River Energy and the significant increase in transmission rates coming in 2014 — that we were going to be looking at a fairly significant electric rate increase,” Hain said. “While each of our departmental budgets stands alone, there’s no cross subsidization. Everybody has to pay their own way; they all come out on the same bill.”

Knowing that an electrical increase was on the horizon, the commission held the water rates steady and lowered the sewer rates.

“If it was at all possible to hold the line on water rates — which we did, we’re maintaining the same rates in 2013 — (we thought) if it was at all possible to hold the line on sewer rates, let’s do it,” Hain said. “That’s what we did by utilizing another $91,000 in reserves. We’re able to actually get that small decrease.”

Because of the reserves WPU has, the money was able to be used.

“Reserves are good,” Hain said. “If we were running on a shoestring, we wouldn’t have that option. There are pretty significant expenses that come up periodically and if you don’t have the money in the bank to pay for them, you would see wildly fluctuating rates from year to year.”

The city council will still need to approve the rates, but Hain doesn’t believe it will be an issue.

The electric rates have not yet been set, but on Monday, the commission heard a report on a rate study.

“Strictly due to purchase power and transmission costs, it would require an overall 6.3 percent electric rate increase,” Hain said. “That’s strictly based on those two cost increases we’re going to see next year. It has nothing to do locally. There is absolutely no need for a rate increase based on locally controlled costs.”

Hain said the rates for the electric budget have not yet been finalized, but will be discussed at a future commission meeting.