Reading my notes from past council meetings the city is looking for a consultant to work on reducing our rate tables from over 700 to 30 or 40. Talk from both council and citizens is that a gallon of water is a gallon of water and why should Joe Business pay more than Jan Homesteader. The concern presented by Mr. Kisela is that we must keep any changes revenue neutral or we could wind up short. Unless it has been done in private with the city manager it appears little direction has been given by council about what the new rates should accomplish and look like, except to be fewer than 40.
Council should provide upfront direction for the consultant in what is expected. Otherwise they are likely to show up with a presentation that will either be accepted with angst or sent back further stalling the reform and clarification our city so badly needs.
My thoughts are that while we say water rates we are actually meaning Potable Water, Reclaim/Irrigation water and Sewer. Port Orange rates have not changed in years since the energy charge was separated, other costs have certainly changed, but only our energy charge has changed. So revenue neutral should not be a goal of a rate revision. The city should instead seek to make the utility business solvent and self supporting into the future.
Our city is in the position of providing services to its citizens but also to cities and county residents as bulk customers. As I understand it the city has debt for the well fields, processing plants and other infrastructure, and the responsibility of maintenance. At the June 25th meeting their was some discussion about the cost benefit of forestry at the well fields and also about the reclaim lakes. All of these expenses are part of the cost of a gallon of water and the processing of a pound of poop, and should be considered in the rates. As citizen taxpayers of the City we are the burden bearers of the debt and cost of the things we have built and are able to provide for those outside our tax base. The future rates should reflect our residents investment and liability and pass it to our non city resident consumers. They always have the option of creating their own systems and in the future a desalination plant could be pumping water west to our city. I do not suggest that profits be extracted but that outside the city rates return to our citizens our investments that are providing the services fairly. How fair our current rates are is unknown.
The idea that we are charging more for ongoing service based on meter/pipe size appears unfair and a profit grab from the business community that we expect to employ, support and provide goods and services to our residents. If the impact fees and connection charges did not offset the cost of providing service and potential usage what were they for? The reasons for different rates just don’t hold water. While different business will use more or less water is it fair to charge all business or building size more for a gallon of water and sewer service? The charges for capacity should be collected once and while could be spread out in payments, should not continue forever.