The Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners last month adopted a water and sewer rate resolution that eliminates an increase in rates that was scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2015. Without this action, water rates would have increased by approximately 3.5 percent and sewer rates would have increased by about 10 percent. The new rate resolution was also approved by the Gwinnett County Water and Sewerage Authority in December.
As has been the County’s practice, the newly adopted rate resolution
covers several years, or the period of 2016 – 2021. Modest rate changes of
approximately 1.5 percent for water and about 2 percent for sewer are planned
in 2017, 2019 and 2021.
“This plan provides an appropriate funding level for the water and
sewer system’s operations and maintenance needs in the future,” said Commission
Chairman Charlotte Nash. “The efforts of Water Resources Director Ron
Seibenhener and his staff to control costs put us in a position where we could
forego the planned increase in 2015. The district commissioners and I know that
rates have risen considerably over the last few years, and we felt that we
needed to give this relief to the ratepayers.”
Seibenhener cited several examples of efficiency improvements and cost
reductions, including process changes at water treatment and water reclamation
facilities that have reduced the use of both chemicals and power. The
department has reduced water loss throughout the system with an advanced leak
detection program and lowered the number of costly equipment failures with
staff training focused on improving preventive maintenance. “Most importantly,
we have optimized our capital program to ensure the right projects are
happening at the right time in the right way,” added Seibenhener.
Gwinnett County has also taken advantage of favorable credit ratings
and low interest rates to refinance water and sewer bonds. Interest savings on
long-term debt for capital projects as a result of refunding are approximately
$30 million, freeing up funding for other purposes.
Under the new resolution, basic water rates for
a residential home
will remain $4.85 per 1,000 gallons through the end of 2016. Residential water
rates will increase by 7 cents per 1,000 gallons every other year starting in
2017, topping out at $5.06 per 1,000 gallons in 2021. Residential sewer rates
will remain $7.82 per 1,000 gallons for the next two years. Rates will increase
in alternating years beginning in 2017 for a total increase of 48 cents per
1,000 gallons during the seven-year period.