by Corbin LaMont
Eastsound Water Users Association has unveiled a new rate structure that is aimed at being fairer to all members.
“While most transitions come with a few challenges, the 2019 rate structure improves on the prior structure by charging all members the same amount for each gallon of use. This was a specific request from members,” General Manager Paul Kamin told the Sounder.
EWUA held a forum to answer questions from the public on March 25 at the Eastsound Fire Station. More than 25 community members attended the discussion led by Kamin and Board Chair Joe Cohen with the support of other board members. Most of the questions were centered around how the new rate structure, which went into effect on Jan. 1, was determined.
One commercial property owner said, “Do what you said you were going to do and honor your commitments,” in reference to the rates for commercial members, including longtime users, that are now billed at the same rate as residential users.
Kamin told members that the new structure was created from recommendations developed through a series of community engagement sessions last year. Members wanted to see more equitable pricing and benefits for conservation. The previous rate structure was based on Equivalent Residential Units, which distinguished different base rates for single family homes, multiunit buildings or commercial accounts and had some residents paying more than others for the same amount of water.
The new structure features a base rate that is calculated on each member’s water use over the prior year with a consumption rate applied for water usage in each billing cycle.
Every member pays $14 per 1000 gallons for their base water rate and then $5 per 1000 gallons for their consumption rate. Since the start of the year, half of the EWUA members have paid less than they did previously due to the more equitable rate structure while half of Eastsound residents paid more.
EWUA is a nonprofit with about a $1 million operating budget. Kamin explained that the basewater rate, which covers 75 percent of the association’s costs, is needed to ensure that EWUA has stable funds for operation. The remaining 25 percent is covered by consumption fees.
EWUA’s 2019 budget included a 9 percent increase in revenue and expenses. Rates last increased in 2016. To ensure the water system’s long-term health, 15 percent of the operating budget goes toward capital replacement reserves.
Since the new rates are based on members’ average water use from last year, some members may have seen a higher rate on their most recent bill but will see lower rates during the high season. Kamin has estimated 2019 costs for more than 200 members to let them know the difference they will be paying throughout the year on their bill.
If you’d like to have Kamin take a look at your water bill and let you know what your annual payment will look like in comparison to last year, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or give him a call at 360-376-2127.
At Eastsound Water’s March 26 board meeting a subcommittee was formed to examine the question of how “accidental” water use last year elevated some members’ base rate for 2019. Although the new rate information went out over email as well as at public meetings, Cohen acknowledged they could do a better job of getting information out to community members who prefer paper mailings. Further explanation of the 2019 rate structure can be found at https://eastsoundwater.org/2019-rate-structure-details-how-to-estimate-your-future-bills/