Why Are the Water Bills in Manassas Park Higher This Month?
Your Patch editor again explains why the water and sewer base rate doubled in Manassas Park.
Many people keeled over, cursed or cried when they read their water and sewer bills this month in Manassas Park.
Yep. This is the first billing cycle that reflects the new base rate of $52 a month per customer; doubling the $26 fee they were paying. The fee is in addition to the amount billed for water usage and is static.
A couple of residents contacted me this week about why the water bill is so high.
Over the past year or so, I've done several pieces on this matter, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to publish another piece about Manassas Park's water and sewer bills and how city officials arrived at the rate increase.
OK, so here are the basics:
Manassas Park City Council voted on May 15 to increase the base rate
Before the vote, city staff explained that an increase was needed to repair the systems, pay bonds and save money in the long run.
Council voted 6-1 to approve the increase. The one nay vote was that of Councilman Preston Banks, who said he voted "no" because he feels there are other ways to improve the water and sewer systems, such as state grants and regional water solutions.
Water and sewer payments go into the city's Enterprise Fund which has operated in the red for years. It was able to do so without major consequences because it was receiving millions of dollars in one-time tap fees from new construction projects, which have since ceased.
To stop the bleed, city officials have to increase the rates.
Officials said the rate increase is also needed to pay for the city’s utilities bonds which are due to increase in Fiscal Year 2016 by some $1 million.
The city’s has utility bond payments because it borrowed money to buy water rights from Manassas City and the Service Authority of Prince William County, Zumwalt said.
The city also has to chip on the Upper Occoquan Service Authority’s (UOSA) bonds.
Manassas Park owns a little more than 5 percent of UOSA. The rest is owned by Manassas, Prince William and Fairfax Counties.
Manassas Park has to pay UOSA some $1.5 million this year for its bonds, Zumwalt said.
That amount will increase by $100,000 every year until it reaches a plateau, he said.
City staff said the inefficiencies in the city’s aging water and sewage systems also attribute to the need for a rate increase. To improve the system it will cost around $150,000 a year, city officials said.
The city is losing some of the water it buys from Manassas City and Service Authority of Prince William County which purchases its water from Fairfax County.
Here are links to several other Patch stories on Manassas Park's water and sewer system.
April 18: Water and Sewer Bill Set to Increase
June 25, 2011: Public Works Director Explains City's Water Sewer Issues