Sharing the cost of water: Your Mount Pleasant Waterworks rate increase explained

  • Tuesday, July 9, 2013

We learn from an early age about fairness and sharing. As adults, we strive to teach our families those same values.

Communities must strive to share costs in a way that is fair for everyone.

So it is no surprise that fairness and sharing play key roles in determining who should pay and how much a utility should charge for clean drinking water and protection of our environment with responsible wastewater treatment.

On June 24, after several months of discussion and opportunity for public input, Mount Pleasant Waterworks completed its Fiscal Year 2014 budget, which began July 1. The total budget is $47.5 million; $24.6 million for operating and $22.8 million for capital improvements. The budget reflects ongoing price escalations throughout our economy.

Fuel and energy costs are constantly increasing.

At MPW, annual operating costs are shared by all of our customers through water and wastewater rates and charged.

Examples of operating costs at MPW include fuel and energy, maintenance, labor, insurance, training and education.

Equipment upgrades to make systems run more efficiently, use less energy, improve environmental quality and save money for the long-term are expenses, as well.

Some operating costs are a direct result of added expenses necessary to provide capacity and service for high volume water customers. At MPW, those expenses are not shared by everyone but are collected from the high volume users.

User rates are set in four tiers that assess higher fees as customers progress through the tiers.

To eliminate the possibility of those customers who pay their monthly bills on time from assuming responsibility for those who do not, MPW charges penalty, late and non-payment charges.

These charges are assessed at appropriate times to cover the administrative and technical cost associated with collections and disconnection of service.

As new developments arise in Mount Pleasant, MPW must increase water and wastewater treatment capacity and extend its water distribution system and wastewater collection system to accommodate growth. MPW implemented impact fees 30 years ago to collect additional revenue to pay for capital costs that are a direct result of growth.

These impact fees are charged to developers and builders and protect existing customers from the financial burden of paying for new capacity. MPW operates under its Cost Recovery Policy with the philosophy that growth pays for growth.

Capital improvements include replacing aging pipes, upgrading wastewater treatment plants to meet increased regulations and improve environmental protection.

Through impact fees, only our new customers share in the costs related to growth while our existing customers share in the costs of capital improvements.

MPW is committed to setting rates and fees at appropriate levels to fairly allocate operating costs and capital costs to existing and future customers. As a result, today’s water and wastewater customers receive one of the best values possible for services and products received. On average, MPW customers using 5,000 gallons of water a month will pay about $57.15 for clean, safe drinking water. The value of water services is certainly one of the best and fairest deals available.

Clay Duffie is the general manager of the Mount Pleasant Waterworks and has more than 30 years of experience in water and wastewater managament practices.

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