How Your Sewer Bill Is Calculated
The Fredericksburg Sewer and Water Authority is charged with the installation, operation and maintenance of both the public water and public sewer facilities within its service area. Under law, the authority must charge rates sufficient to pay all of the expenses associated with that mandate. Because the authority cannot levy taxes, all of our income must be obtained from our customers. Every fall, a committee of members of the board of directors is charged with drawing up a budget for the following calendar year. This proposed budget is introduced to the entire board at a public meeting, is debated, modified, and finally adopted. Frequently, the initial proposed budget may be sent back to the budget committee for further research or amendment prior to the vote to adopt it. The budget committee obtains information from employees, vendors, professionals, engineers, utilities and from any other source that can provide knowledgeable input related to upcoming expenses. Historical information on usage, cost trends, and repairs is also used when appropriate. The budget process, which begins in September of each year, takes about four months to complete and results in the adoption of a budget for the water system and one for the sewer systems, which under Pennsylvania law must occur prior to December 31 of each year. The information below describes how your sewer and water bill is calculated, based upon the appoved budgets.
Calculation of Your Bill:
In most of the Fredericksburg area, the authority provides both sewer and water service. Water use is measured by a meter installed in every dwelling, business, school, industrial plant, or other facility. The usage, measured in hundreds of gallons, is then multiplied by the water rate and the result is your water bill. The sewer portion of the bill is based on the water usage, as measured by the meter installed in your house, office, or other structure. For sewer purposes, state law defines a term called an EDU, or equivalent dwelling unit, for the purpose of measuring the capacity of any sewer system. An EDU is defined as the amount of sewage generated by a single family dwelling on a daily basis. For the FSWA sewer systems, including both Fredericksburg and the Monroe Valley plants, that figure calculates out to about 125 gallons per day of sewage or a quarterly usage of about 11,000 gallons of sewage. As of 2015, the FSWA sewer systems had about 1,675 EDUs of sewer discharge, based on that definition, which approximates 63 million gallons of sewage per year, or 173,000 gallons of sewage daily.
Every home equals one EDU of sewer capacity. Offices, businesses, and industries, are assigned EDUs based on the expected sewage flow, or based on the number of employees, the number of seats in restaurants, the number of apartments or rooms in rental units, or on some other logical basis, as determined by the FSWA Board of Directors. Under law, the number of EDUs may not exceed the total capacity of the receiving sewage treatment plant. In addition, some capacity in any sewage treatment plant has to be reserved for inflow and infiltration, or the added flow into that plant as a result of wet weather and resultant seepage through manhole lids, etc. Beginning in calendar year 2015, after at least a year of history is captured, the number of EDUs may be recalculated based on actual usage, rather than a number being assigned from a chart. The board believed that using actual history would make for a more equitable assignment of sewer EDUs.
Your sewer bill has two charges shown on it – the operations charge, and the debt service charge. The operations charge is calculated by taking the total expected operations expenses, not including the cost of paying debt, and dividing those expenses by the total expected flow into the treatment plant, minus a factor for inflow and infiltration (I&I). For 2015, the operations charge is $11.16 per thousand gallons of sewage flow. Your bill shows the number of hundreds of gallons of sewage flow times the operations charge.
The debt service charge is calculated by taking the existing debt service, or the amount to be paid on all borrowing during the year, and dividing that amount by the total number of EDUs. For 2015, the total expected loan payments were $1,152,139, and the EDUs, as shown above, were 1,675, yielding a debt service charge of $74.11 per quarter or $296.44 per year. If you are connected to the sewer system, you are billed the debt service charge for every EDU of sewage that you discharge.
In areas in which there is no public water system, your bill is based on an average water use of about 11,000 gallons per quarter, even though that flow is not measured. For 2015, that charge, called a non-metered charge or flat charge, is $196.84. It is the product of multiplying the average use (11,000 gallons per quarter) by the operations charge of $11.16 per thousand gallons, and adding the debt service charge of $74.11.
As time goes by, it is possible that the water system may be expanded into areas that are currently served with only sewer service. As that expansion occurs, those customers who are billed a flat rate will be converted to full service and will be billed based upon their actual water consumption. At the time this article was written, the authority has no plans to expand the water system; however, it is possible that expansion could occur as additional areas of Bethel Township are developed for residential or industrial or commercial use.