No rate increase or layoffs in 2017

There will not be an increase in Hamilton County’s sewer rates in 2017.  There will also be no layoffs among sewer district employees because of this decision.

County officials and MSD continue to have different opinions about the 2017 budget. At the December 14th public hearing regarding the proposed 2017 budget Commissioner Chris Monzel assured the community that MSD’s threat to lay off workers if its proposed budget wasn’t approved saying is NOT true stating that,”There will be no rate increase, there will be no layoffs.”

Thank you to all who came out to give public comments regarding the 2017 budget proposal on December 7th and December 14th.  Take a look at public comments made by ECO at the hearings here.

MSD 2017 Capital and Operating Budget Hearing

Hamilton County has announced public hearings on the rates, operating budget and capital budget. Here are dates and ways to comment:

The Hamilton County Commission has announced that it will conduct public hearings on the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) of Greater Cincinnati’s 2017 – 2021 Capital Improvement Budget, Operating Budget for 2017 and consider a revised rate structure for MSD service charges and surcharges.

The hearings are scheduled for Wednesday December 7, 2016, at 11:30 am and Wednesday December 14, 2016, at 11:30 am, 138 East Court Street, Room 603, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202.

Comments can be made at the hearing or in writing to the Clerk of the Board, Jacqueline.Panioto@hamilton-co.org

Commissioners’ emails are dennis.deters@hamilton-co.org, chris.monzel@hamilton-co.org, Todd.Portune@hamilton-co.org

The files which MSD submitted to the county for the budgets and rates are here. The MSD rate study is here: MSDGC-2016-Rate-Study-Draft-Final-Report_30SEP2016.pdf

The county monitor team and MSD have been working on the rates and budgets for almost 3 months now. In September and October 2016, the commissioners passed several resolutions directing MSD and their staff to modify the rate structure or provide the necessary study/data to determine changes like stormwater runoff charges. But most of that work isn’t done and the most recent information is that MSD won’t have the billing system modified even by the end of the first quarter for the simplest changes.

So, we don’t know the how much the budget and rate documents have changed. The first rate increase documents indicated a 5.25 % increase; the rate study says 4.25%. The county might be looking at 4%. Muddying the waters further, the August 28 storm expected to total more than $20 million in damages, due to basement backups and sewer collapses. This impacted the MSD operating budget for 2016, probably reducing the amount of debt service paid. The rate implications of that aren’t clear at all.

So despite the amount of information we have, it isn’t very clear, where this is headed.

County Commissioners Begin Addressing MSD Rate Structure

Over the past month, the Hamilton County Commission has passed the following resolutions and requested that MSD begin implementation as soon as possible.

  • Billing residential customers monthly
  • Basing the multifamily billing on meter size rather than the number of units
  • Billing based on actual meter size rather than pipe size
  • Increasing awareness of lateral line insurance
  • Establishing a customer billing appeals process
  • Reducing the current monthly charge based on 5 ccf of water to 3 ccf.

The monthly billing will be based on 1/3 of the current quarterly billing for residential customers. This is a reduction from $59.54/month to $39.12.  About 30% of customers use less than 5 ccf that was previously part of a monthly bill.  That is they were paying for water discharged to the sewer system that they were not using.

More work is in progress.  Each of the Commissioners’ resolution included setting up a framework to encourage the use of Green/Sustainable Infrastructure and reducing the inflow and infiltration of stormwater.  The County Monitor Team is charged with working with MSD to get the necessary data to determine stormwater charges, and green infrastructure incentives.  Separating the volume charge out of the minimum charge will likely encourage more water conservation and possibly non-potable water reuse.  This will affect revenue – and some level of treatment costs. The Commission is discussing phasing in such changes so that the billing rate can properly reflect the needed revenue.  Work is also being done on developing the low-income / hardship billing assistance.

ECO supports addressing the stormwater charge and green infrastructure as soon as possible.  We also support eliminating the volume discount that big industries get for use of large volumes of water.

Learn more about fair and affordable rate structuring here

 

Sewer Rate Reform

Sewer rates must be fair and affordable for all residents. Cincinnati needs to change the outdated rate structure and its failing sewer system. Currently residential customers are paying 75% of the cost of treating stormwater. Many large impervious surfaces areas pay nothing for the stormwater going to the MSD system.  MSD put this cost at $121,000,000 last year. If stormwater charge is not properly implemented and calculated, minimum charges for single families, duplexes and smaller apartments will continue to subsidize the facilities that have large impervious surfaces and the minimum charge will remain excessively high for many residents.

 

We need clean water, good jobs fixing our failing sewer system and fair rates.  Environmental Community Organization (ECO) urges the County Commission to adopt the following recommendations listed below.

  • Implement a stormwater charge/fee on impervious surfaces. This fee must be sufficient to cover the stormwater collection, storage and treatment costs ($121,000,000 in 2015) and include the properties contributing stormwater to the MSD system but not paying for the runoff from their properties.
  • Implement monthly billing without extra cost and have meters that must be read monthly.
  • Create an appeals process.
  • Offer an affordability program which includes a percentage discount for residents who qualify.
  • Reduce or eliminate volume allowance for the minimum charge and reduce minimum charge so people are charged only for what they use.
  • Eliminate the discount (lower rate) for the large volume water users.
  • Create incentives for green infrastructure such as rain barrels, rain gardens, pervious pavement, and water detention on site so that only minimum amounts enter the combined sewer system.
  • Reduce minimum charge for small meter sizes for residential customers through reallocation of the costs of storm-water treatment and other proven methods.
  • Express usage in gallons instead of cubic feet (CF).  Water meter sizes are not the most relevant way to assess sewer rates. Consider a progressive income tax for sewers.

Let the county commissioners know you want fair and affordable rates, good jobs fixing our aging infrastructure, and clean water.

 Contact your Hamilton County Commissioners, they set the sewer rates !

 

Dennis Deters dennis.deters@hamilton-co.org 946-4406
Chris Monzel chris.monzel@hamilton-co.org 946-4409
Todd Portune todd.portune@hamilton-co.org 946-4401

Feel free to pass out the Fair and Affordable Sewer Rates  page, add your own logo and let us know you are joining the effort!