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The original item was published from 11/2/2015 11:59:39 AM to 11/2/2015 12:00:29 PM.

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Posted on: November 2, 2015

[ARCHIVED] Water & Sewer Rate Increase

When will the new rates take effect?

The new rates will be phased in over a five year period, with the first change taking place on January 1, 2016 which will be reflected on April 2016 invoice.

What are the new rates?

The base rate and the volume rate are both being adjusted beginning in 2016. Beginning in 2018, there will be a new asset renewal charge. For more information

How much is my residential bill going up?

For 2016, the average residential bill will increase by about $13 a month, or $38 a quarter.

How much is my commercial bill going up?

Please contact Water and Sewer Accounting at (410) 638-3311 or Email for more information since current meters may need be changed.

Why are new rates necessary?

The new rates will return the system to financial stability by providing the resources necessary to maintain the service levels our customers expect and to comply with the environmental regulations mandated by the state and federal governments. By law, the County water and sewer system is an enterprise fund; meaning it is fully funded by the users and not supported by any other funding, including County or local taxes. It is intended to operate like a business, except instead of making a profit, it needs to break even. For the past decade, the user rates have not covered costs, and the fund balance or surplus, used to maintain operations would be fully depleted by next year.

How were the new rates determined?

An independent consultant, Black and Veatch, developed the new rates, which were approved by the County Council in October 2015. The new rates eliminate the system’s deficit, create a minimum level of reserves, and provided funding for critical infrastructure in a manner that is fair and equitable to the nearly 50,000 customer accounts. Black and Veatch initially advised the County to implement the new rates immediately; however, the County opted to phase the adjustment over five years to reduce the impact. Even after the adjustment, the County’s rates will still be among the lowest in the region. For more information.

I live in Whiteford or Spring Meadows in Jarrettsville, and I am not part of the main system. Why are my rates going up?

Both the smaller systems and the main system are currently operating at a financial loss. Neither system has a current fee structure that meets its costs. On a per customer basis, a smaller system is actually more expensive to operate. It was decided that the fairest and most equitable way of dealing with the small systems was to apply the average residential increase across the board. Since Whiteford and Spring Meadows customers are sewer only, their quarterly increase for 2016 of approximately $24 reflects the sewer portion of the $38 combined increase that customers who receive both water and sewer will see.

How do the Harford County rates for Water and Sewer compare to other water/sewer utilities in the area?

The water and sewer rates are the lowest in Harford County and the State. The following is a comparison of Harford County water and sewer rates compared to other agencies throughout the State after the County rate increase in January 2016.

When was the last time water rates were increased?

Since 1995, water and sewer rates in Harford County were automatically adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). This index has not been a good indicator of utility costs, which are heavily influenced by costs for electrical power, chemicals, more stringent regulations and costs associated with replacing and rehabilitating infrastructure. In fact, in one year the CPI was negative which resulted in a decrease in the water and sewer rates. As a result, the relatively small rate increases over time have resulted in a decrease in the water and sewer fund net value to a critically low point that would, if rates were not adjusted, result in a negative balance and would require subsidy from tax revenues.

Where does my money go?

The water and sewer fund is an enterprise fund in the County, meaning that it is meant to function as a financially independent function within the County Government. All of the revenue collected is dedicated for the exclusive use of the utility to fund operating expenses such as power, chemicals, workers’ salaries, equipment, vehicles, and supplies and materials.

What is the County doing to keep water rates as low as possible?

Harford County takes a proactive approach to minimizing costs while meeting federal state and local requirements for potable water and sewage service. We monitor water output and consumption to minimize losses from leaks and inaccurate meter, using technologies to monitor and control various facilities throughout the County system to reduce staff and improve efficiency and effectiveness of processes to treat, pump and store water. Furthermore, we purchase chemicals, electrical power, and fuels in bulk and use cooperative purchasing (combining our purchase needs with other agencies to increase our buying power). We also lease space on some of our water towers to cellular phone companies to provide revenue that supports the operations of the utility.

How can I tell what size meter I have at my home or office?

Almost all single-family residential customers have a 5/8” meter. Residences with fire sprinkler systems typically use a 3/4” meter. You may contact Water and Sewer Accounting at (410) 638-3311 or Email for more information concerning your meter size.

I live in the town of … will the rate change affect me?

If you are a direct customer of Harford County, meaning that you get a water and/or sewer bill from Harford County Government, the rate change will affect you. If you receive a water and sewer bill from a private water company, or from one of the publicly owned systems such as the Aberdeen, Bel Air, or Havre de Grace, you should not be directly impacted by this rate change.

I have a septic system. Will this rate increase affect me?

Septic users could be affected if they are on the County water system. Currently, the County has approximately 1,530 customers on the County water system with a private septic system.

I live in Whiteford and my sewage is treated in Delta PA, why is Harford County charging more for sewer service?

Although the sewage is treated in Delta, PA Harford County government pays the Borough for treatment services and the County maintains the lines and provides the direct customer service for each account in the Whiteford Service Area. The full costs of service are not covered by the current rates and charges. Therefore the rates needed to be adjusted.

I cannot pay my water and/or sewer bill. Who can help?

Please contact United Way at (410) 547-8000 or visit their website United Way

How can I reduce my bill?

The County encourages conservation. For more information on water conservation

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