No water rate hike for Rochester residents, despite pandemic

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published September 8, 2020

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ROCHESTER — While COVID-19 has brought change to just about every part of modern life, one thing that will remain steady over the next year is the city of Rochester’s water rates.

On Aug. 24, the Rochester City Council unanimously approved no rate increases for the next billing year — which runs from September 2020 to August 2021 — based on the recommendations of a water and sewer rate study recently completed by Raftelis.

“We believe that our current revenue levels are adequate through at least next year, so we are not recommending any adjustments to rates,” said Collin Drat, a project manager with Raftelis. “Even following that, our rates are generally in a good place.”

Mayor Stuart Bikson said keeping water and sewer rate increases small and predictable is a goal of the Rochester City Council.

“The city of Rochester has invested wisely in our water and sewer infrastructure. This investment will lead to zero rate increase this year and small increases into future years,” he said in a statement.    

Rochester Finance Director Anthony Moggio said the city contracted with Raftelis to provide a deep review of its rates to make sure that they are fair and equitable to users.

As part of the contract, the company developed water and sewer financial plans and rate structure alternatives for the city. The entire plan is available on the city’s website.

“All the users of our water system can review and see through Raftelis’ report that our rates are indeed fair and equitable. In fact, no rate change for this year and minor ones going forward is a testament to that,” he said in a statement.

The general objective of the financial planning process, according to city officials, was to determine the level of rate revenue required to provide for the financial sustainability of the utilities into the future.

“This will still allow the city to provide safe and reliable drinking water and sewage disposal systems, while still fairly recovering the cost from usage,” said Public Works Director Sandy Brondstetter.

City officials said “modest increases” may be needed beginning in September 2021, which will be monitored and evaluated during the annual budget process.

“Unless something substantial changes on the capital needs side, (we can continue with) modest adjustments in future years, as needed, to keep revenues in line with costs,” Drat said.

Rochester has two water systems: a well water system on the city’s west side, west of Letica Drive, that pumps, treats and distributes well water to over 2,000 customers; and the Great Lakes Water Authority system, which provides water — through Shelby Township — to over 1,700 city customers on the city’s east side, east of Letica Drive.

All sewer service customers in the city receive the service from the same provider, the Oakland County Water Resources Commission, through a contract with the GLWA.

As far as rates go, City Manager Blaine Wing said the city operates the well water system and provides water from the system at “an economical rate” to those on the west side of Letica, while those on the east side of Letica must pay the rate set by the GLWA that is passed on to the city. All city residents are required to pay the same sewer rates, set by the sewer service provider.

To help offset future rate increases, residents and businesses are encouraged to install an irrigation meter, replace grass with a lower maintenance option, water their lawns during non-peak periods of midnight-5 a.m. to reduce capital investment and energy costs, and check their water meter for the leak alarm icon, which will indicate if water is continually passing through the meter for a 24-hour period.

For more information on the city’s sewer and water rates, or to learn how to read your meter, visit www.rochestermi.org/rates or call (248) 733-3700.

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