The local water authority’s senior discount could be eliminated in the near future.
The Bristol County Water Authority board of directors reached a consensus Wednesday evening to examine a change in the current rate structure, and while the switch could include an elimination or phase out of a senior citizen service discount details of the plan are far from finalized.
The move marked the latest step in the board’s examination of potential race increases. Municipal and Financial Services Group consultant Michael Maker presented the alternative to the authority as one of several options. The board is using the contractor as a consultant for its rate study.
The BCWA currently utilizes a five-tier system with a service charge discount for customers 65 years of age and older. The favored alternative, however, utilizes a three tier residential system with a separate non-residential tier.
The alternative as presented also does away with the senior discount though board chairman Allan Klepper cautioned it’s too early in the process to talk about specifics of the plan. He said the board still needs additional information such as how much water the average BCWA customer uses.
There was also talk of including a “lifeline” rate in the new structure that would offer a lower usage fee up to a certain point and examining changes to hydrant fees though final decisions on these matters, much like the senior discount, remain to be made.
“There’s a lot of pieces in this equation,” Mr. Klepper said.
BCWA Executive Director Pamela Marchand said she supported the alternative structure because it would be easier to understand.
The likelihood that rates will be on the rise is an offshoot of the revenue needs identified for coming years. Next year, for example, the BCWA reportedly needs a 12 percent bump in revenue followed by four years of 4 percent increases annually. The final four years of the plan were initially reported as 3 percent increases though BCWA financial director Mark Champagne said this was a calculation error.
The board’s consensus on a new rate structure does not mean any rate changes have been agreed upon. Instead, the structure allows the consultant and BCWA staff to continue work towards identifying new rates.
Mr. Klepper said there will be a public hearing on any rate increases before they are implemented and the board plans to visit with the Bristol, Warren and Barrington Town Councils to explain any potential rate increases.
The board is expected to continue its discussion at its next meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 28.