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Erie County Water Authority raises rates - with businesses taking bigger hit

Residents served by the Erie County Water Authority will see an 1.9 percent increase in their water bill next year.

The authority stated that for an average residential water user -- using 17,000 gallons of water a year -- this will work out to an additional 85 cents on their bill per quarter.

But, it's a different story for the authority's more than 3,000 commercial water users, who will see a doubling of their flat-rate infrastructure charges.

Those businesses will pay anywhere from $25 more to thousands of dollars more on their water bills, in addition to a higher water usage rate.

The Erie County Water Authority Board approved the rate increase at its meeting Monday.

The Water Authority's public relations firm, Zeppelin Communications, put out a news release about the changes for its 550,000 customers at close to 4:30 p.m. Friday and said no administrator or commissioner was available to discuss the design of or need for the changes.

Prior to this year, all water rate payers – both residential and commercial – were subjected to a flat infrastructure fee in addition to their regular usage fees.

That fee had risen more than 500 percent over a five-year period before the Water Authority Board adopted a proportional rate structure for 2017 that essentially taxed heavier, commercial water users at a higher level than regular residential customers.

At that time, the board committed to leaving the infrastructure rate for residential users – 97 percent of all customers – unchanged for three years. Next year will represent the second year of the commitment.

It's a different story for commercial water users, who will see their infrastructure fee increase by 100 percent. This would have the deepest impact on municipalities that buy water in bulk for redistribution, though commercial water users and bulk rate buyers do pay a lower usage rate than residential users.

Starting in January, the residential water rate will be $3.23 per 1,000 gallons of water next year. The commercial rate will be $2.89, and the bulk rate will be $2.53.

All users will see a rate increase of 5 cents to 6 cents per thousand.

The authority has stated that the additional revenue is needed to continue upgrades to its aging water distribution system, which includes pipelines, tanks, plants and pump stations.

The authority's capital budget, which addresses construction-related expenses, is rising from $32 million this year to $36 million next year.

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