(From the City of Findlay)
On Thursday, November 9, the Findlay City Council Water & Sewer Committee voted to support the Administration’s proposal to raise water rates as of January 1, 2024. Though not required by Ordinance, as Water Rates are a function of the Administration and may be changed at anytime by the Service-Safety Director, the Administration felt it was important for Council to be informed and recognize why the change is needed.
The new inside usage rate will be $4.01 per 100 cubic feet. See the chart for new water rates.
For example, the average two-person residential property will see an annual cost increase of approximately $70 (base rate + usage) for those paying inside water rates. “We recognize that every penny our residents earn is valuable. We have spent over a year evaluating how to best address the Water Fund needs while also limiting the impact to our users as much as possible,” said Findlay Service-Safety Director Rob Martin.
Water rates have not increased since 2011. As water revenues have remained flat, expenses have increased 13% since 2012. The cost of chemicals used to treat water increased by over 40% in 2022 and has remained high, and materials such as pipes, hydrants, and other water system components have increased between 25%-40%. According to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA), since 1997 Ohio municipalities as a whole have averaged nearly a 4% annual increase. In an average bill comparison study released in 2019 by the OEPA (see graph below), Findlay’s bill comparison was 51% lower than the Ohio Average. Had the City followed the State trend and increased rates by 4% annually since 2012, City base rates would be 10% higher than the current proposal.
To maintain the existing high-quality water plant and services, infrastructure requires routine preventative maintenance and capital improvements. In 2023 alone, the Operating Budget was ~$9,700,000 and the Projected Revenue was $8,731,199. Since 2019, the Findlay Water Department has delayed over $6.6 million in needed capital improvement expenses in order to maintain solvency in the Water Fund. They also invested nearly $1 Million of American Rescue Plan Act Funds towards needed improvements such as a Generator and CO2 Tank replacement. The Water Fund is an Enterprise Fund and is therefore separate from the City’s General Fund. Enterprise Funds are to be self-sustaining funds with revenues covering operating expenses, capital needs, and long-term improvements. Despite rising costs of materials, labor, and maintenance, the Findlay Water Department has successfully managed expenses to maintain a minimum balance of nearly $1.5 Million which is required under the City Ordinance, and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Regulation additionally this allowed the City to complete the Water Transmitter Project which was necessary prior to making any rate adjustments.
During the Committee meeting Thursday, the Administration stated that part of this rate increase is not just meeting current demands and projected routine capital needs but also preparing the fund for future significant investments that may be necessary on the plant which will be 100 years old in 2031.
Moving forward, the Administration plans to implement a formal Rate Review Process which would occur annually to determine what, if any, rate changes are necessary to avoid significant rate increases like this in the future. The Annual Water Fund Report would involve: reviewing operational cost variability in relation to revenues; ensuring the minimum reserve balance required by the OEPA aligns with operational cost projections; ongoing evaluation of capital needs for maintenance of current infrastructure and system growth demand; evaluation of debt policies; and evaluating short-term priorities while positioning the Findlay Water Department for long term sustainability.
“The City of Findlay realizes the immense value in maintaining our water treatment and distribution system,” says Service-Safety Director Rob Martin. “In order to continue to provide this community service at the lowest cost possible we must evaluate the sustainability of our Water Fund on an ongoing basis and make adjustments regularly. As we look forward this is a necessary step in ensuring this service remains both now and for generations to come.”
“Our team has been working diligently the past few years to make upgrades necessary to then be able to fully evaluate the sustainability of our Water Fund. Unfortunately, we are at a point in time where we can no longer delay making a rate change,” said Findlay Mayor Christina Muryn.
Additionally, in the Water & Sewer Committee meeting, Mayor Christina Muryn reiterated that the City of Findlay is not looking to sell the Water Treatment Plant. “The Findlay Water Treatment Plant is an immense resource that we must continue to protect and leverage to both ensure high-quality, low-cost water for our residents and also use as an economic development tool. The recent conversations about selling surplus water to surrounding communities have generated a variety of misinformation. It is critical that residents understand that selling the water treatment plant or relinquishing control from the City government is not, and has never been, a discussion point under my Administration. Water Treatment Plants are very expensive to operate and I believe that having further conversations on how the City may be able to generate revenue to help offset the City resident’s cost burden is worthwhile. Any conversations are always focused on prioritizing existing City of Findlay water users.”
More information visit www.FindlayOhio.gov.