Beginning in August, St. Charles Parish residents will notice an average increase of approximately $3.08 per month in wastewater fees charged on their monthly water bills.
The change comes as the parish administration looks to increase available funding for the Wastewater Departmentís plants and infrastructure in the area of capital projects and improvements. The 57-cent increase per 1,000 gallons of water usage represents an initial effort to move the department toward financial self-sufficiency.
"Over just the last four years, the Wastewater Department has used more than $11 million from the parishís general fund to complete needed refurbishments and repairs," Parish President V.J. St. Pierre said. "Having to raise rates is not ideal, but doing so will help ensure this critical service is receiving some additional funds needed to sustain itself in the future."
Recent projects include $3.5 million for refurbishment projects at the Hahnville and Destrehan mechanical wastewater plants and a $6.5 million Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality loan for upgrade work to at least seven priority lift stations to be paid off over 20 years from the general fund. A 2000 engineering study commissioned by the parish recommended a rate increase due to the high cost of plant maintenance and operations and need for project funding in wastewater. Wastewater rates have not increased since 2006.
In 2011, the Wastewater Department reported an operating loss of $3.1 million.
"With the Phase II West Bank Hurricane Protection Levee project nearing construction, I felt it was the time to begin shoring up areas in the budget that could potentially remove funds from that project," St. Pierre said. "With these changes, we will be able to commit more money to the levee project and other important drainage projects in the parish knowing that wastewater is in better shape financially."
The Wastewater Department in St. Charles Parish, like Waterworks, is unique in that it operates completely on user fees. It does not derive any funding from property taxes or sales taxes, nor is it consistently subsidized by an outside source.
Ordinance 01-1-1 gives the parish president authority to increase wastewater rates without approval from the parish council.
Previous wastewater rates were $4.67 per 1,000 gallons for customers. The 57-cent increase brings rates to $5.24 per 1,000 gallons. While residents will not see a billed rate change until August, the actual increased rate will go into effect July 1.
An individual customerís rate increase will depend on actual water usage.
Current plans call for wastewater rates to increase by an additional 57 cents per 1,000 gallons in 2013 and 2014 respectively in order to create a residual fund balance of 15 percent to be used for capital projects.
The 57-cent increase will translate, on average, to a total billed increase of $3.08 per month. Actual water usage will dictate whether a customer will see an increase either below or above that $3.08 average.
Parish leaders are continuing to look for methods to further ensure funding for Wastewater.
In 2012, the rate increase is expected to generate additional revenue in the amount of $415,196.