Results of study could change Butler County water rates

Study to analyze cost of service, tap-on fees and county’s rate designs.

A new study will soon be completed that could change how much some Butler County residents and businesses pay for water.

Butler County commissioners recently approved spending $87,830 for a water and sewer study that will include closer looks at cost of service and current tap-on fees as well as an analysis of the county’s rate designs.

Currently, water fees for residents and business who receive service through the county go up the more they use. The rates are raised at the 3,000- and 9,000-gallon mark.

“We want to re-analyze the consumption and usage patterns of our consumers and reassess those kind of rate structures to see if it makes sense to change the rate structure,” said Bob Leventry, director of the Butler County Water and Sewer Department. “Theoretically it could result in a rate increase or a rate decrease or nothing at all.”

The last time the county made a rate adjustment was in 2009 when they reduced water rates by about 5 percent for residential customers using less than 3,000 gallons and sewer rates by almost 18 percent. Basic commercial water rates were reduced by about 24 percent and sewer rates dropped almost 28 percent.

“We did a fairly, unfortunately, a fairly sizable layoff in 2009,” he said. “We cut labor costs significantly and we restructured some operations which resulted in some operational cost savings, so as a result we were able to do a rate decrease.”

Commissioner Don Dixon said getting water and sewer rates right is critical not only for residents, but also for economic development.

“We need to keep our rates low for our residents and for our businesses,” Dixon said. “It’s an economic development tool also. We have to be aware because we compete with Mason, Northern Kentucky and Dayton and wherever else, so water and sewer services are a real important part of economic development.”

Part of the upcoming study will re-examine the county’s tap-on fee, which is the cost of connecting a home or business to the sewer and water systems.

The county has not adjusted its tap-on fees in 13 years, according to Leventry. The residential sewer fee has remained $4,595; the water fee is $4,465.

The county saved over $3 million last year in the first year of a water purchase deal with the city of Hamilton.

Butler County ranks 13th out of 63 jurisdictions surveyed in the city of Oakwood’s annual ranking of water and sewer rates in the region. The county has been steadily rising up through the ranking for lowest rates, according to Leventry. In 2005, it ranked 53rd out of 64.

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