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Parkersburg Utility Board fiscal 2022 budget under consideration

Rate increase likely for water system improvements

PARKERSBURG — The Parkersburg Utility Board predicts nearly $9 million in capital expenditures for the upcoming fiscal year, the result of planned water system improvements that will likely require a rate increase.

The board received a draft of the 2021-22 budget on May 11 and is expected to vote on approval of the spending plan at its May 25 meeting.

The budget predicts more than $16.2 million in revenue, a decrease from nearly $16.64 million projected this fiscal year, which ends June 30. Comptroller Erin Hall said that’s due in part to a decrease in water consumption. It’s a trend the utility was seeing prior to 2020 as people used more water-saving appliances, but it was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A budget memo prepared by Hall said there was a 3.6 percent decrease in water consumption for fiscal year 2020. Consumption is expected to be 0.2 percent lower this fiscal year, and another half percent drop is forecast in the proposed budget, she said.

Operating and maintenance expenses are projected at $8.9 million, a 1.67 percent increase from the 2020-21 budget, according to the memo.

Planned water system improvements include replacing approximately 36,400 lineal feet of 6- to 12-inch water mains, replacing about 20,000 lineal feet of 2-inch or smaller water mains with 4- and 6-inch mains, improving service pressure and fire protection in south Parkersburg by constructing a new booster station and rehabilitating the water treatment plant’s settling basin.

The work is planned to be financed with a bond issue and “there would have to be some type of rate adjustment” as a result, PUB Manager Eric Bennett said.

The base water charge for most customers is $10.50, with a volume charge of $5.44 per 1,000 gallons. Those rates have been in place since July 1, 2012, when the final step of a three-year phased increase went into effect. A new rate increase has not yet been proposed.

“We’re also looking at the possibility of receiving some portion of the American Rescue money from the city to pay part of that cost, which in turn would reduce the need for the rate increase,” Bennett said.

The budget also includes a 3 percent cost-of-living increase for all employees. In addition, personnel modifications were made based on a salary analysis that recommended changes to the utility’s pay scale and specific employee labor grades, according to the memo from Hall.

Some of the changes had no financial effect, but the adjustments have the potential for an annual increase of $88,383 in labor and benefits. Bennett said the salaries are based on an individual’s qualifications and time in a position, as well as annual performance evaluations.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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