PIQUA — Looking back a decade, water rates in the city of Piqua have increased steadily in preparation for paying for the new Water Treatment Plant. A need to address the city’s water source due to stricter standards from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a failing Water Treatment Plant has been coming down the pike for a long time, leaving the question of how to pay for it all.
Each year between 2007 and this year, with the exception of the year 2011, has seen increases to the water rates. Those rate increases are:
• Last quarter of 2007 – 10 percent
• 2008, 2009, and 2010 – 7 percent each year
• 2011 – no increase
• 2012 and 2013 – 20 percent each year
• 2014, 2015, and 2016 – 6 percent each year
For the years 2012 and 2013, City Manager Gary Huff said that was the beginning of starting to prepare for the new Water Treatment Plant and paying off the loans.
The current proposed water rate increases of 10 percent for each year for the next four years is to pay for the new plant as well as other water infrastructure projects, including the new water tower, new water lines, and automated water meter services. If the commission does not approve the water rate increases at their next meeting on Tuesday evening, the city stated that they will not be able to pay for the debt service to pay for the plant.
Huff also explained that the utility enterprise funds cannot be intermingled with other city funds, meaning that the city of Piqua cannot subsidize water or wastewater funds with the city’s general fund or other city funds. Other municipalities may have the option to use their general funds to do that.
In Piqua, water rates are calculated by an initial cost for the first 1,000 gallons of usage determined by the size of meter sizes, with 5/8-inch meters being the most common size for residential customers. After the first 1,000 gallons of usage, there is a monthly charge for water in excess of 1,000 gallons, not exceeding 25,000 gallons, per additional 1,000 gallons. The size of the meter does not matter after the first initial cost. There are also additional brackets following the 25,000 gallons.
For example, in 2006, residents with a meter size of 5/8-inch paid an initial cost of $8.34 for the first 1,000 gallons of water. They then paid $3.07 per 1,000 gallons after the first amount, but not exceeding 25,000 gallons. After 25,000 gallons, they then paid $2.17 per 1,000 gallons and so on. Going by those calculations and an estimated monthly usage of 7,500 gallons of water for a family of four, customers paid approximately $28.30 in 2006.
Going by increased rates according to ordinances provided by the city of Piqua and a usage of 7,500 gallons of water, the following figures show how estimated monthly costs have increased over the past decade:
• Last quarter of 2007 — $31.14
• 2008 – $33.29
• 2009 – $35.66
• 2010 – $38.15
• 2011 – no increase
• 2012 – $45.80
• 2013 – $54.93
• 2014 – $58.24
• 2015 – $61.74
• 2016 – $65.43
The estimated monthly costs for a family of four for the proposed increases will look like the following costs per 7,500 gallons:
• 2017 – $71.98
• 2018 – $79.17
• 2019 – $87.09
• 2020 – $95.83
According to a 2008 conservation publication provided by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the average Ohioan uses about 50 gallons of water per day, so actual costs may be lower if the family of four uses less than 7,500 gallons per month. A survey provided by the city of Oakwood, though, calculates cost comparisons by a usage of 7,500 gallons per month and will be discussed below.
Looking outside of Piqua
Neighboring communities have also been dealing with the same issues as Piqua in regard to water rates.
In the city of Sidney, residents saw the following water rate increase percentages:
• 2011 to 2012 – 3 percent
• 2012 to 2013 – 14 percent
• 2013 to 2014 – 29 percent
• 2014 to 2015 – 15 percent
• 2015 to 2016 – 3 percent
• 2016 to 2017 – 3 percent
The larger increases seen between the years 2012 and 2015, those increases were due to funding a new water source.
In the city of Troy, rates have also steadily increased. Between 2013 and 2016, the water rates increased by approximately 6 percent each year. From 2016 to 2017, the rates increased by 3 percent.
While not alone, Piqua residents appear to be paying more in comparison. The city of Oakwood prepares an annual survey of 60-plus area communities ranking their water and sewer charges, and according to the 2016 report for water costs, Piqua is one of the highest in regard to water rates.
The rates provided in Oakwood’s survey are based on 22,500 gallons or 3,000 cubic feet of water in a three-month period. Oakwood survey 66 jurisdictions, and the rates quoted are those in effect as of March 1, 2016. For water costs, the survey determined the high cost of $197.97 for rural Miami County in Tipp City, the low cost of $55.26 for Enon, and the mean cost of $118.13.
From lowest to highest, Oakwood also determined the following water costs for local municipalities:
• Troy — $130.26
• Tipp City — $146.70
• Sidney — $147.75
• Rural Miami County in Troy — $192.66
• Piqua — $196.29
This trend is not the same for the sewer costs, however. For sewer costs, the survey determined the high cost of $240.81 for Loveland, the low cost of $72.92 for Dayton, and the mean cost of $133.38. Piqua came in under the mean cost for sewer rates.
From lowest to highest, Oakwood also determined the following sewer costs for local municipalities:
• Tipp City — $85.59
• Troy — $111.96
• Piqua — $127.28
• Sidney — $152.97
• Rural Miami County in Tipp City — $194.94
• Rural Miami County in Troy — $225.90
Piqua also has not raised sewer rates since 2011. The city is proposing increases of 20 percent each year for the next four years for sewer rates, beginning with this year.
Comparing the costs of living
According to a municipal cost comparison of southwest Ohio communities, Piqua is the fourth cheapest municipality to live in out of approximately 30 surveyed communities. Troy and Sidney were close by, with Troy being the fifth cheapest and Sidney being the third least expensive.
The cost comparison utilized data from a study done by the city of Troy with the city of Piqua adding annual electric rates to the compilation in 2015. The cost comparison was also provided by the city of Piqua.
According to the cost comparison, residents in Piqua generally pay more in utility bills than Troy and Sidney, with the exception of sewer costs compared to Sidney.
Piqua residents pay less than Troy residents in their annual electric rates, household property taxes, and household income tax. This accounts for the average estimated $162 difference in living in Troy versus Piqua.
For those same categories, Piqua residents pay more than Sidney residents with the exception of electric rates. This accounts for the average estimated $36 difference in living in Piqua versus Sidney.
The following are those specific costs listed in the cost comparison:
• Troy — Annual electric rate (750 kWh/mth) of $1,271.76; annual household property tax of $1,627.85; annual household income tax of $842.52; annual refuse fee of $180; annual stormwater fee (1 ERU) of $56.40; annual permissive tax (2 plates) of $20; annual water rate (7.5k/mth) of $463.80; and annual sewer rate (7.5k/mth) $422.16
• Piqua — Annual electric rate (750 kWh/mth) of $1,053.27; annual household property tax of $1,445.89; annual household income tax of $735.63; annual refuse fee of $221.16; annual stormwater fee (1 ERU) of $68.40; annual permissive tax (2 plates) of $30; annual water rate (7.5k/mth) of $659.16; and annual sewer rate (7.5k/mth) of $509.12
• Sidney — Annual electric rate (750 kWh/mth) of $1,271.76; annual household property tax of $1,372.80; annual household income tax of $615.60; annual refuse fee of $201.60; annual stormwater fee (1 ERU) of $12; annual permissive tax (2 plates) of $20; annual water rate (7.5k/mth) of $498.40; and annual sewer rate (7.5k/mth) of $676
Sidney’s cost also includes $18.60 for annual streetlight assessments, which are not done in Troy or Piqua.
The total average costs for each city listed in the cost comparison are:
• Troy — $4,884.49
• Piqua — $4,722.63
• Sidney — $4,686.76
The two cities listed as being cheaper to live after Sidney are Middletown and Urbana.
Reach Sam Wildow at swildow@dailycall or (937) 451-3336