PHILADELPHIA – Board Chair Sonny Popowsky announced today that the Rate Board has issued its Rate Determination governing water, sewer, and storm water rates in Philadelphia for Fiscal Years (FY) 2019 and 2020. The Rate Determination was filed with the City’s Department of Records yesterday afternoon.
On March 14, 2018, PWD filed with the Rate Board its proposal to increase rates to recover additional revenues over three years (FY2019 -2021). As originally filed, PWD’s proposed increases would have raised the Department’s overall revenues by 1.6 percent in FY2019, 4.5 percent in FY2020 and 4.5 percent in FY2021. Under the originally proposed schedules of water and wastewater rates, the total monthly bill for the typical residential customer using 500 cubic feet of water per month would have increased from $66.50 to $67.24 in FY2019; to $70.60 in FY2020; and to $73.79 in FY2021.
The Rate Board determined that it will only address the proposed rate increases for FY2019 and FY2020 at this time. Based on its review of the evidence presented, the Board approved overall revenue increases of 1.33 percent in FY2019 and 1.20 percent in FY2020. For a typical residential customer, the monthly bill would decline slightly from $66.50 to $66.33 in FY2019 due to a reduction in the monthly customer service charge, then increase to $67.19 in FY2020. The rate changes approved in the Order will go into effect on September 1, 2018 for FY2019 and on September 1, 2019 for FY2020.
In reaching its decision, the Board sought to balance the cost to customers along with the critical infrastructure and financial needs of the Water Department. The Board also set forth targets for a number of financial metrics to be considered by the Water Department in its operations and by the Board in its future rate decisions. These targets include a 1.30 senior debt service coverage ratio; a $150 million combined reserve balance in the Department’s rate stabilization fund and residual fund; and 20 percent cash financing for capital expenditures. The Rate Board also adopted PWD’s proposal to increase funding for the Water Department’s Storm Water Management Incentive Program and Greened Acres Retrofit Program – both part of the Department’s Green City, Clean Waters initiative – which received strong public support during the rate proceeding.
The Board also approved the Department’s proposal to establish a reconcilable cost recovery rider for the Tiered Assistance Program (“TAP”) which provides reduced rates for eligible low-income customers. Under the TAP Rate, PWD customers with incomes at or below 150% of the Federal Poverty Level can receive lower bills that are based on a percentage of their income, rather than the full standard rate.
The Rate Board, however, denied the Water Department’s request to shift the water costs of public fire protection from the City General Fund to the Water Revenue Fund, and also adopted a number of other recommendations to reduce the rate increase that were presented by the Public Advocate appointed by the Board to represent the interest of small customers.
This was the second full rate proceeding decided by the Rate Board, which was established by City Council pursuant to a 2012 amendment to the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter as an independent body to be responsible for setting the Water Department rates and charges. The Board conducted the rate proceeding in accordance with Council’s mandate and its own regulations. The Board’s Rate Determination in addition to all of the documentation, including the public’s emails and testimony, can be found on the Rate Board’s website at http://www.phila.gov/water/rateboard.
Board Chair Popowsky expressed his appreciation to all of the participants in the rate proceeding, and also his fellow Board members, who as volunteers gave many hours to review the record, attend hearings, and take their roles very seriously. Popowsky also recognized the many residents from neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia who took the time to attend one of the nine public hearings held by the Board and to write or email the Board to share their own thoughts and recommendations.
In the rate proceeding, the Water Department was represented by Andre Dasent as counsel. Following competitive requests for proposals, the Rate Board retained Community Legal Services as Public Advocate (Robert Ballenger, lead counsel), Nancy Brockway as Hearing Officer, and Amawalk Consulting Group LLC (Edward Markus) as Technical Consultant.
Sonny Popowsky, Chair
Folasade A. Olanipekun-Lewis
Rasheia R. Johnson