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Frequently Asked Questions About Rate Adjustment

Response to Frequently Asked Questions:

Why is Louisa County Water Authority (LCWA) considering reducing the minimum from 4,000 gallons per month to 3,000 gallons per month?

LCWA is considering the reduction in the monthly minimum from 4,000 to 3,000 gallons per month because there are ~850 customers on two systems (Zion Crossroads Well System and the Northeast Creek System).  Of those 850 customers, ~330 customers use less than 4,000 gallons per month and of the ~330 customers, ~180 use less than 3,000 gallons per month.  Our experience is that these customers are the most vulnerable, living on a fixed income or with disabilities.

Why would LCWA consider adjusting water and sewer rates during a pandemic and downturn in the economy?

 The LCWA Board of Directors is holding the Public Hearing at this time, but no decision has been reached on when to apply the adjustments.  Prior to the pandemic and the downturn in the economy, the date to apply the adjustments was July 1, 2020.  That date has been deferred and is being assessed on a monthly basis.

Why has the billing cycle fluctuated beyond 28 – 32 days?

 Currently, LCWA has approximately 60 – 70 meters to change out from manual read to radio read.  A more steady billing cycle will be accomplished when the switch over from manual read meters to radio read meters is complete.  Additionally, we are a small utility and only have four maintenance employees, if employees are out sick or on vacation, weather, depending on customer’s needs, the number of Miss Utility tickets, flushing and system repairs all can cause the meter reading days to fluctuate.  Our target fluctuation will be 28-32 days going forward

Why are we charged a convenience fee for credit card payments?

 If you pay your bill online, there is a convenience fee charged for credit card payments by our merchant services provider, LCWA only receives the amount of the water and sewer bill you received from our office.  We do offer credit card payments with no convenience fee, all you have to do is call our business office and we can process that payment for you at no additional fee.

LCWA has been advised by Information Technology and Legal advisors that we cannot retain credit/debit card information or banking account information in our business office for electronic transfer of funds to pay water and sewer bills.  This is for our customer’s protection against identity theft.

Why is there no information on the website about current and projected budgets? 

 LCWA is working toward providing more information on our website.  We have a small staff, but with a recent change we are hoping to devote more office staff time to adding information to our website. 

Why can’t I look back at my LCWA usage history on your website?

 LCWA will be adding this feature to our website soon.  Unfortunately we can’t go back and populate the site.  Once it begins, it will take a year to have 12 months of usage history available for customers to view.

Why is LCWA considering applying these rate adjustments?

LCWA has been working toward more fiscal independence from the County of Louisa for some time.  In order to be fully fiscally independent, user fees should cover operation and maintenance costs, while connection fees are held in reserve to make large repairs, replace aging equipment and extend services offered.  At the present, connection fees are used, in large part, for operation and maintenance expenditures. 

How do the Authority’s current rates and proposed adjusted rates compare to other localities in close proximity?

 

Source: https://efc.sog.unc.edu/resource/virginia-water-and-wastewater-rates-dashboard-0

 

Additional Source: Virginia Water and Wastewater Rate Report 2019

     

Residential                                                          

         
 

3,000
gallons

4,000
gallons

5,000
gallons

One-time Connection

 

W&S
1,000,000
Gallons

Water
1,000,000
Gallons

Albemarle County

 $        50.42

 $      68.87

 $      87.32

 $     14,496.00

 

 $       18,265.00

 $     8,795.00

Amelia County

 $        47.50

 $      52.00

 $      61.50

 $       7,000.00

 

 $         9,975.00

 $     4,725.00

Bowling Green

 $        64.62

 $      70.86

 $      77.10

 $     13,500.00

 

 $         8,904.00

 $     2,504.00

Buckingham County

 $        66.21

 $      66.21

 $      92.61

 $       4,500.00

 

 $       26,586.00

 $   13,000.00

Caroline County

 $        75.28

 $      86.35

 $      98.03

 $     11,000.00

 

 $       12,631.00

 $     2,043.00

Chesterfield County

 $        44.51

 $      50.40

 $      56.28

 $     13,105.00

 

 $         6,432.00

 $     3,068.00

Culpeper County

 $        44.06

 $      58.08

 $      72.10

 $     17,062.00

 

 $       10,921.00

 $     3,859.00

Fauquier County

 $      102.93

 $    119.00

 $    135.07

 $     25,120.00

 

 $       21,794.00

 $   10,897.00

Fredericksburg

 $        53.20

 $      61.39

 $      69.58

 $     15,700.00

 

 $         8,208.00

 $     2,777.00

Goochland County

 $        65.23

 $      79.31

 $      93.12

 $     10,700.00

 

 $       23,595.00

 $     9,387.00

Hanover County

 $        44.32

 $      57.22

 $      69.91

 $     12,740.00

 

 $         4,128.00

 $     9,818.00

Henrico County

 $        53.27

 $      63.17

 $      73.06

 $     10,895.00

 

 $       10,178.00

 $     4,937.00

King George County

 $        99.32

 $    115.93

 $    132.54

 $     19,845.00

 

 $       19,494.00

 $     6,130.00

Town of Louisa

 $        71.66

 $      71.66

 $      85.51

 $     12,500.00

 

 $       13,921.00

 $     6,697.00

Town of Mineral

 $        61.90

 $      78.75

 $      95.60

 $     12,000.00

 

 $       16,862.00

 $     8,003.00

Town of Orange

 $        60.48

 $      69.98

 $      79.48

 $     15,330.00

 

 $       10,678.00

 $     4,013.00

Powhatan County

 $        64.47

 $      77.81

 $      91.15

 $     12,200.00

 

 $       13,951.00

 $     7,000.00

Rapidan Service Authority

 $        50.06

 $      63.06

 $      76.06

 $     20,000.00

 

 $                      -  

 $                  -  

Spotsylvania County

 $        39.30

 $      51.73

 $      64.16

 $     13,350.00

 

 $       17,155.00

 $   10,868.00

Stafford County

 $        57.23

 $      67.33

 $      78.82

 $     10,400.00

 

 $       11,825.00

 $     5,128.00

Warrenton

 $        32.56

 $      47.60

 $      62.64

 $     15,750.00

 

 $       15,592.00

 $     5,859.00

Waynesboro

 $        53.52

 $      67.52

 $      81.54

 $       6,975.00

 

 $       14,155.00

 $     5,289.00

               

LCWA (current)

 $      59.04

 $    59.04

 $    73.80

 $     9,000.00

 

 $     14,760.00

 $   5,890.00

LCWA (proposed)

 $      55.92

 $    72.56

 $    89.20

 $     9,000.00

 

 $     16,646.00

 $   6,713.43

Mean

 $      58.61

 $    69.62

 $    82.79

 $   13,212.18

 

 $     14,099.48

 $   6,380.48

Median

 $      55.38

 $    66.77

 $    77.96

 $   12,922.50

 

 $     13,951.00

 $   5,859.00

Mean w/o LCWA

 $      58.59

 $    70.12

 $    83.22

 $   13,412.76

 

 $     14,066.45

 $   6,405.00

Median w/o LCWA

 $      53.52

 $    67.33

 $    78.82

 $   13,105.00

 

 $     13,291.00

 $   5,574.00

               
               

DA W&S Rate Study - Avg.

 $        60.39

 $      72.04

 $      85.02

       

DA W&S Rate Study - Med.

 $        58.36

 $      70.46

 $      81.56

       

Some of the information above was provided by Mr. Robert Gore.  Additional information was provided by Pam Baughman.

 How do costs vs. revenue breakdown for operations of LCWA?

 LCWA:  Cost / Revenue per 1,000 gallons FY2019

Facility

Total Gallons Produced or Treated

Total Cost to Treat

Cost/1,000 gallons

Total Revenue Received

Revenue/1,000 gallons

Northeast Creek Water Treatment Plant

77,076,200

$821,353

$10.65

$404,498

$5.25

Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant

134,472,930

$796,143*

$5.92

$820,623

$6.10

Zion Crossroads Water System

54,269,320

$241,593

$4.45

$380,766

$7.01

Zion Crossroads Wastewater Treatment Plant

59,700,000

$769,048

$12.88

$508,315

$8.51

 

 

 

 

 

 

Central Louisa Combined (NEC & Regional)

211,549,130

$1,617,496

$7.64

$1,225,121

$5.79

Zion Combined (Water & Wastewater)

113,969,320

$1,010,641

$8.86

$889,081

$7.80

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Water

131,345,520

$1,062,946

$8.09

$785,264

$5.97

All Sewer

194,172,930

$1,565,191

$8.06

$1,328,938

$6.84

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Connection Fees / No Capital Expenses

325,515,450

$2,740,701

$8.41

$2,280,569

$7.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

LCWA Total

325,518,450

$2,830,701

$8.69

$2,560,569

$7.86

 

 

 

 

 

 

*includes Louisa Regional Collection System. 

Current Rates:  Water:  $5.89/1,000 (last increase 07/01/2019 Sewer:  $8.87/1,000 (last increase 07/01/2019)

As of July 1, 2019, a residential customer using up to 4,000 gallons will pay $59.04/month for a minimum combined water and sewer bill.

 What funding requests has the Authority requested from the County for the past three years?

 2017: $425,000

1) County’s share of operations for the Louisa Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant $225,000. 

2) County’s share of the SCADA System for the Louisa Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant $125,000.

3) Zion Crossroads Wastewater Treatment Plant UV Disinfection Structure Canopy $75,000.

2018:  $730,000

1) Northeast Creek Water Treatment Plant Fall Protection Safety Upgrades $40,000.

2) Zion Crossroads Wastewater Treatment Plant Fall Protection Safety Upgrades $90,000.

3) County’s share of the Louisa Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant Fall Protection Upgrades $100,000.

4) Bowlers Mill Dam Improvements FY2020-2039 $250,000/year for the next seven years.

5) County’s share of the Louisa Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant Freshwater Ammonia Nitrogen upgrade spread over six years as follows:  2020-$334,000, 2021-$334,000, 2022-$334,000, 2023-$334,000, 2024-$334,000, 2025-$330,000.

6) County’s share of operations for the Louisa Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant $250,000.

2019: $1,160,000

1) County’s share of operations for the Louisa Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant $275,000.

2) County’s share of the Louisa Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant Freshwater Ammonia Nitrogen upgrade spread over six years as follows:  2020-$334,000, 2021-$334,000, 2022-$334,000, 2023-$334,000, 2024-$334,000, 2025-$330,000.

3) Bowlers Mill Dam Improvements FY2020-2039 $250,000/year for the next seven years.

4) Northeast Creek Water Treatment Plant Sludge Vacuum System $250,000.

5) County’s share of the Louisa Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant Filter Building Modifications $51,000.

2020:

1) Supplemental Appropriation for a SCADA System for Zion Crossroads Well System $54,000.

Other funding requests will be made later in 2020.

Why do so many customers have dirty water complaints?

The water source for the Zion Crossroads Service Area is from a well system.  The only treatment on the well water is sodium-hypochlorite for disinfection.

The only way to remove silica and sediment from the well water is a Greensand Filtration System.  The filters would need to be backwashed and regenerated as part of the operations process.  The backwash and regeneration process creates a discharge that has to be treated at a wastewater treatment facility.  There is currently no wastewater collection system at either well field location, which would include force main lines and pump stations to transmit the discharge to the Zion Crossroads Wastewater Treatment Plant.  Additionally, a booster station would be required because the water flow from the wells would be restricted through the filtering system.

The cost for a Greensand Filtration System, collection system, pump stations and booster station would cost ~$2,000,000.

How did the LCWA Board of Directors derive at the proposed rate adjustments?

 Louisa County Water Authority has been working toward fiscal independence from the County of Louisa for several years at the Board of Supervisors request.  Connection fees paid to the Authority should be set aside for large repairs, equipment replacement, system expansion and services expansion, but to date, connection fees are used in large part to pay for operations and maintenance of water and wastewater infrastructure across the County.

The intention of the rate adjustment is to lessen or eliminate the Authority’s dependence on connection fees to pay for operation and maintenance of infrastructure.  If connection fees are removed from our revenue statement ($566,520 for FY2020), the Authority would have experienced a shortfall of $218,475.

The LCWA Board of Directors began looking at rates in November 2019, after the first quarter FY2020 revenue and expenditure numbers were finalized.  The Board looked at several proposed budgets and began evaluating a shortfall of $250,000.  The Board uses a model that can be run by changing rates to determine the effect on revenues.  As quarterly revenues and expenditures were monitored throughout the year, the Board began to dial down the projected shortfall to $220,000-$225,000.  However, historically the Authority will only actually receive approximately 85% of any rate increase or adjustment.  Which would drop anticipated revenue increases to $187,000-$191,250, instead of $220,000-$225,000.

The Board determined in order to close the shortfall gap, a 12% increase in water rates and 14% increase in sewer rates would need to be applied.  The idea is if you use more you pay more, if you use less you pay less.  The Board has also been working to help the most vulnerable customers, retired and disabled, with a reduction in the minimum monthly gallons.  The reduction from 4,000 gallons per month to 3,000 gallons a month is intended to help those customers.  The addition of a $6.00/month Administrative Fee was to make up the revenue lost with the monthly reduction.  Louisa County Water Authority has a total of 850 customers.  Of those 850 customers ~330 use 4,000 gallons of water or less per month.  Of the 330 customers using 4,000 gallons of water or less, ~180 use 3,000 gallons of water or less per month. 

Why does LCWA not provide a way to save sewer charges during the summer when water usage increases due to water plants, lawns, etc.?

 LCWA does provide a way for customers to save sewer charges during high-demand summer usage.  (See below.)

Louisa County Water Authority:  Irrigation Water Policy

Customers desiring an irrigation system supplied by public water have two options.  They are, run the irrigation system off the main house meter, thereby incurring sewage charges, or to install a separate meter all together, eliminating sewage charges, yet incurring additional connection charges.

                The option of installing a separate meter, owned and maintained by LCWA allows staff to insure they are in proper working order.  Under sizing issues are eliminated, as flow demands are used to determine proper sizing, without respect to indoor demand.  Additionally, the connection fees charged to establish these connections more accurately reflect the demand they are placing on the water supply, and more appropriately recover the costs the LCWA incurs in allowing irrigation systems to come on-line.  Lastly, these separate meters allow for greater ease in monitoring consumption, and provide opportunity for placing limitations or restrictions on the use of irrigation water and potentially for adjusting the charges for such usage. 

                Existing irrigation systems with a 5/8 x 3/4 inch meter are not, at this time, required to install a separate tap and meter.  These systems, however, are subject to review.  If upon review it is determined that the increased peak demand placed on a 5/8” residential meter exceeds the normal operating limits of the main meter, then the customer will have to upgrade to a 1” main meter or install a separate irrigation meter.  This customer will be subject to the incremental cost increase associated with upgrading to a 1” meter or all fees associated with installing a second meter.

                All systems currently running irrigation through the main house meter, consequently paying sewage charges may continue to do so, provided the main meter is not under sized.  It is recommended that if homeowners desire to avoid sewage charges, a separate tap and meter be required.

How does regulations add to cost for water and sewer?

 The Authority is actively planning for or currently watching the progress of the following emerging regulatory mandates: 

  1. PFAS (Perfluorinated compounds, perfluoroalkyl acids, synthetic chemicals) (emerging regulation)
  2. Safe Yield (emerging regulation)
  3. Procurement (always changing)
  4. SCC Rule Update Decision (emerging regulation)
  5. New Pretreatment for any medical facilities, hazardous waste and reporting directly to EPA (emerging regulation)
  6. Phase Three Watershed Implementation Plan. **Released by Governor Northam** (actively planning) $4,000,000
  7. Reassignment of Nitrogen and Phosphorous loading limits (actively planning) cost to be determined
  8. Tank painting substantial increase in costs $100,000/tank five in our system (actively planning) $500,000 annually
  9. OSHA Guidelines for Fall Protection (actively planning) $230,000
  10. DOLI Regulation for work place safety due to COVID-19 (actively planning) minimal cost
  11. Dam Safety Upgrades to meet DCRS regulation (actively planning) $4,000,000 - $6,000,000
  12. Ammonia-Nitrogen reduction, currently targeting a 50% reduction (actively planning) $4,000,000