Aqua Virginia abandons rate increase, will study outdoor use

Infrastructure charge of up to 7 percent still in play

By Heather Michon, correspondent

In a surprise move, Aqua Virginia has abandoned its proposed rate increase and says it will refund customers for the increased rates paid over the past three months.

Aqua had already significantly reduced its request for a rate hike after the passage of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017.

Because the new tax laws dramatically reduce corporate tax rates, the State Corporation Commission (SCC) ordered Aqua and other utilities with pending rate cases to re-submit rates “to ensure that customers…receive the benefits of the corporate tax cut.”

In response, Aqua dropped its proposed 11 percent wastewater increase and halved a 5.4 percent water increase. In a town hall meeting in March, Aqua Virginia President John J. Aulbach said most customers would see an average $2.86 increase in their monthly bill.

This week, in a proposal worked out between Aqua Virginia and the parties representing customers across the state, Aqua will end the interim billing rates by May 31 and will refund the interim rates within 60 days.

Among other stipulations, the agreement also states that Aqua Virginia will make a good-faith effort to study “Lake Monticello’s proposal(s) regarding wastewater rates for water consumed outside” before its next base rate proceeding.

Charging customers for outdoor usage was a major point of contention between Aqua and Lake Monticello. In his testimony at the public hearing earlier this month, LMOA Board President Richard Barringer argued it lowered the community’s property values by forcing people to abandon landscaping in an effort to lower their monthly water bills.

While any relief from Aqua’s water rates is welcome news for Lake Monticello residents, one thing Aqua isn’t giving up is its bid for a water and wastewater infrastructure service charge (WWISC).

Approval of a WWISC would add a monthly charge of up to 7 percent to each customer’s bill.

This week’s proposal still has to be approved by the SCC before it can go into effect. A decision on the WWISC is expected sometime later this year.

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