Liberty says bills ‘relatively flat’ over 3-year period (April 11, 2016)

In-house analysis shows customers pay about the same as they did in 2013

APPLE VALLEY — An in-house analysis of water bills paid between 2013 and 2016 found that the typical residential customer pays about the same for their water bill today as they did three years ago, according to Liberty Utilities, Apple Valley’s Financial Manager Eric Larsen.

Larsen conducted the analysis and told the Daily Press it factored in conservation, the recent drought surcharge, the CPUC’s 1.5 percent charge for its services, as well as other surcharges.

Based on those factors, the average Liberty customer today — using 8,714 gallons of water per month — would pay $78.47 each month, the analysis showed. With the pending 17-cent surcharge applied, that monthly amount increases to $80.44.

In 2013, according to the analysis, the average household paid $79.20 each month.

The impact on the folks who are conserving tends to be negligible, Larsen said. That 17-cent and 43-cent (surcharges) all goes against consumption, so if someone wants to pay less, all they have to do is conserve. So it’s still within the customer’s control.

In addition, last year nearly 76 percent of residential water bills were below the monthly $78.47 average, according to Larsen.

Folks are using less (water), he said. They’re just using less. Our reported production is dramatically down. As is (that of) most major water suppliers. And if it’s down, you’re selling less water. So the rates have to adjust to cover the cost.

Larsen added that the CPUC’s goals are to ensure customers receive quality water service and that providers are reasonably compensated for that service.

And it’s set up in a way that keeps everyone on their toes, he said. It doesn’t guarantee anything, but … it makes it so that folks pay a reasonable amount and also that we get compensated for doing our job well.

Apple Valley Town Manager Frank Robinson said it’s difficult for the town to comment on the in-house analysis without being shown the data that brought about Liberty’s conclusion that bills remained relatively flat over the last three years.

I’m not surprised by that information, though, he said. Between the severe drought and the extreme rate hikes, of course I would expect ratepayers to cut usage enough to keep bills as level as possible and conserve water.

And Penna noted that because rates have increased while consumption has decreased, the situation could be viewed as a paying-more-for-less scenario, but he added that, in a broader context, everything Liberty does revolves around ensuring the effective and safe delivery of water to customers.

During that period (of relatively flat bills on average), Penna said, we have worked through a historic drought, had significant infrastructure investments and other costs. Yet thanks to our customers’ conservation efforts and our efforts to maximize our efficiency, the average bill in 2016 is the same as in 2013.

Source: Matthew Cabe, Daily Press