PIMA COUNTY, Arizona – The Pima County Board of Supervisors, at its April 18 meeting, voted 3-2 to approve increasing existing sewer user rates and fees, and connection fees by 3 percent starting June 1.
The Pima County Finance and Risk Management Department, and the Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department and its Advisory Committee, requested the increases to ensure the department generates enough revenue to cover its operating, maintenance, and debt expenses while also having enough financial reserves, which are required by the bond market for the County’s sewer debt.
The monthly service fee for all customers will go up to $13.01. In addition, all customers will pay a new sewer volume rate depending on whether they have a residential, commercial, multi-family or industrial property. For residential customers, the increased sewer user rate is $3.63 per unit. This fee and rate change will increase an average customer’s sewer bill $1.12 from $37.29 to about $38.42.
In addition to the increase in monthly sewer charges, the Board has also approved a 3 percent increase to sewer connection fees. This increase will apply to homebuilders and new businesses looking to connect to the sewer system for the first time and to existing users wanting to increase their potential discharge to the public sewer system.
Debt repayment schedules and water conservation efforts have caused Wastewater’s expenses to exceed revenues the past four years. The department is an enterprise fund, meaning its revenue is supposed to cover its expenses. The revenue shortfall is affecting debt-to-revenue ratios preferred, and in some cases required, by bonding agencies. If the county’s sewer debt bond rating is downgraded by ratings agencies as a result, it will cost sewer users in the future as lending agencies charge the county higher interest rates on borrowed funds for capital improvements.
The department requested these increases to bring revenue more in line with expenses. Much of the debt the department is paying for was generated primarily from the Regional Optimization Master Plan. The nearly $700 million investment was the largest capital improvement project in County history and one that will continue to benefit the community for the next several decades.
The last Pima County sewer bill increase occurred in 2013 and the last connection fee change was in 2012.