NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — North Kingstown residents using town-supplied water face a possible 21-percent hike in their bills over five years if the town council approves a proposed plan with annual rate increases designed to help stabilize under-funded operating costs.
For the average homeowner using town water, the cost per 1,000 gallons of metered use would be phased in through annual hikes of nearly four percent each. The initial increase — the first in seven years — could start with the December quarterly bill.
Although water use varies by customer, a family of four, based on federal studies showing an average use of 28,800 gallons for a three-month period, would see that water bill increase from about $118 to $142 over five years.
The town has various categories in the proposed plan of rate charges for residential and business. They are based on ranges of the amount of water used quarterly. The proposal is slated next for a Sept. 9 public hearing and then a vote by the town council, according to town officials.
Under the proposed five-year plan in North Kingstown, the increase would incrementally rise from $4.09 to $4.95 per 1,000 gallons of water used.
“Go to a store and you cannot buy 1,000 gallons of water for $4.09, that is the best deal around,” said Timothy Cranston, interim director of the town Water Department.
In a July 30 memo to Town Manager Ralph Mollis, former Water Director Susan Licardi outlined reasons and need for the rate increases.
She wrote that “the town needs to increase water rates over the first five years of the planning period to keep revenues in line with expenses and to fund the required operating and capital costs identified.”
In addition, a multi-year plan — such as she recommended with phased-in four-percent increases each year — helps to “mitigate customer rate shock” with a single large hike and allows the town to keep up with expenses without incurring a deficit in operational expenses.
She also suggested that the town review the costs annually, but have a five-year plan so that rates “do not have to be revisited and voted on every year by the council.” The review also can ensure that the plan is working as intended to sustain all operating expenses, she said.
Town Council President Greg Mancini said that he believed the rate increases are needed.
“The town has a history of not investing in capital assets. I think we need to do it so that our future residents will not be left holding the bag and that our future citizens are not put in a bad position,” he said.
Cranston, who became interim director following Licardi’s recent retirement, explained, “We need to look out five years so that we have a sound plan going forward. We have to deliver safe water to the customers and we need to make sure we have the means to do it.”
He pointed out that personnel and electricity are the most expensive costs in running the water system, but trucks, equipment, pumps and other operating needs also add up.
Even though the federal government estimates individuals each use about 80 gallons of water every day, Cranston said the state target is 65 gallons per person a day. He stressed that people should look at ways to conserve to keep their bills down.
He also noted that current rate charges range from $3.28 to $4.91 per 1,000 gallons up to 75,000 gallons for each quarter. These are “modest” charges when comparing the higher price of $10 per 1,000 gallons when exceeding the 75,000 gallons in the three-month period, he said.
“Some families in this town put thousands of gallons of perfectly safe drinking water on their grass. We need to conserve and that $10 charge aims to help push people in that direction,” he said.