Apache Junction water utilities board to consider 5% increase to base rates

A view of Apache Junction City Councilwoman Gail Evans and Vice Mayor Chip Wilson at a recent meeting. Council members also serve as the Apache Junction Water Utilities Community Facilities District board.

Apache Junction residents have long been encouraged to conserve water, which they have and apparently done quite well.
So well, that a water district is selling less water and making less revenue and is increasing rates to keep up with expenses.

Apache Junction City Council members, serving as the Apache Junction Water Utilities Community Facilities District board, are slated to discuss and vote on a $5 million budget June 19.

If approved, it could mean a 5 percent increase in base water rates beginning this fall.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the council chambers, 300 E. Superstition Blvd.

A $5,039,760 budget has been proposed, with expenditures of $2,004,380 for administration and $3,035,380 for system operations.

Expected revenue is $4,695,650, with an additional $344,110 from savings.

Limited growth and lower demand means reduced revenues for the district, Mike Loggins, water district engineer, said at a recent meeting.

Because of a reduction in revenue, increased rates have been proposed starting Oct. 1, Mr. Loggins said. For customers using 7,500 gallons of water a month, the rate will be $66.40 for in-city customers, which is a 5 percent increase of the base rate but not consumption; and $66.25 for unincorporated Pinal County customers, which is a 5 percent increase of both the base and consumption rates.

“What’s happening out there with our water demands? We have limited growth here in the city of Apache Junction currently,” he said.

“Our lower demands are coming in because people are conserving water, like we want them to do here in Arizona, so we get reduced revenues,” Mr. Loggins said.

“We’re trying to balance those revenues and expenses so that we’re not making the rates too high or keeping them too low and keep up with conservation here in Arizona so that we have water for the future also,” he said.

Christa Rizzi, water district board member, asked if the rates were increased in the last fiscal year.

“Didn’t we just do this last year with the increase? What was the increase last year?” she asked.

“Exact same thing we did last year,” Mr. Loggins said.

“The recommendation we did in our rate study was between 3 (percent) to 5 percent every year,” he said.

“We’re kind of staying with that so we get these slow incremental-rate increases rather than getting a 10 percent (or) 20 percent rate increase like other utilities,” he said.

The base rate increase is 5 percent for both customers who live in the city of Apache Junction and in unincorporated Pinal County, Mr. Loggins said.

For city residents using 7,500 gallons of water a month, an average for a small home, the base rate will be increased $1.12 from the existing $22.41.

For city residents, the consumption rate remains $34.70.

For water customers living in unincorporated Pinal County and using 7,500 gallons of water a month, the base rate will be increased $1.15 from the existing $23.09.

Also, a 5 percent increase in the consumption rate has been proposed for those in unincorporated Pinal County. It is to be increased $1.75 from the existing $35.81.

Taxes on the services also will be increased, by 11 cents for in-city customers and 21 cents for customers in unincorporated Pinal County.

Changes were also proposed for rates for the potable-water station at 725 E. Baseline Ave. and non-potable-water station at Baseline Avenue and the Central Arizona Project canal. Rates are to increase from $9 to $13.

Also, with fire-line check valves with and without bypass meters, the water district plans to add meters to identify leaks and notify customers, Mr. Loggins said.

“Currently our fire lines are not managed by us because they are all private. We have no way to account for them to make sure their back-flow-prevention devices are tested each year,” he said.

Increases of 2.4 percent are proposed for new-development residential-system hook-up fees.

“These are for new developments that come in. This isn’t for any of our existing customers,” Mr. Loggins said.

“They have to pay these hook-up fees to build infrastructure,” he said.

Dave Waldron, water district board member, asked about subdivisions that have begun construction.

“Mike, what about the subdivisions that are being built now? Say if they build a house after July 1, would that be at the increased rate?” he asked.

“It will not, until Oct. 1. Then it would be increased at the proposed rate,” Mr. Loggins said.

Single-family connection fees of $4,380 for 2017-18 would change to $4,490 in 2018-19, multi-family connection fees of $4,220 per dwelling unit for 2017-18 would increase to $4,320 for 2018-19 and manufactured home and RV spaces would increase from $4,140 in 2017-18 to $4,490 in 2018-19.

Water district officials initially asked that connection fees for manufactured home and RV spaces increase from $4,140 in 2017-18 to $4,240 in 2018-19.

Gail Evans, water district board member, asked if manufactured-home connection fees could be the same as single-family connection fees.

“Mike, can you explain to me why a manufactured home is less than a single-family home for the same work?” Mrs. Evans asked.

“What they base these on are how much water use is in that facility,” Mr. Loggins said.

“A two-bedroom or a four-bedroom has the same capacity,” Mrs. Evans said.

“I would agree they have the same capacity, but when the engineer did the study for us they were assuming they would have less fixtures inside a manufactured or an RV space,” Mr. Loggins said.

“To me, it should be exactly the same as single-family (home),” Mrs. Evans said.

The 2018-19 budget includes a 2.5 percent step increase for employee salaries, Frank Blanco, water district director, said at the meeting.

A new water plant operator I position is to be added, assigned to the Superstition Area Water Plant. Also, there will be a reclassification of the utility maintenance workers I and II, to develop a career path; and reclassification of the water district engineer job, he said.

Projects and expenditures planned at the water district in 2018-19 include:

  • $100,000 to purchase and install a strainer at the Superstition Area Water Plant south of Baseline Road on Ironwood Drive.
  •  $350,000 to replace the coating and install cathodic protection in a one-million-gallon tank.
  • $50,000 to purchase and set up an asset-management program to help with work orders.
  • $50,000 to design a raw-water impound at the Superstition Area Water Plant.
  • $100,000 to relocate and update the distribution supervisory control and data acquisition system.

The water district, formed by the city of Apache Junction on Aug. 2, 1994, is responsible for providing water service for approximately 8 square miles, which accounts for more than one-third of the city of Apache Junction. The remaining area is served by Arizona Water Co.

Editor Richard Dyer can be reached at rdyer@newszap.com

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