Norwich Public Utilities recently presented its proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2017 to our Board of Commissioners. If approved, most NPU customers would see lower bills through a decreased electric rate while we make important investments in our infrastructure, with a particular focus on our water and wastewater facilities.
As part of this year’s budget, NPU will return $8.6 million to the City of Norwich General Fund, an increase of $866,841 – or 11% – from last year. This is the equivalent of reducing all tax bills in Norwich by 5 mills. And over the past ten years, NPU has returned more than $77 million to the taxpayers of Norwich.
Under our proposed budget, our headcount would be essentially flat, with 149 rate-funded positions, which is 20% smaller than the workforce we had in the 1990s.
Our budget proposes adjustments to our rates: electric, the largest component of most bills, would decrease by more than 4% while natural gas would be flat. Water and sewer rates, the smaller component of most bills, would increase.
The bottom line is this: if you receive only natural gas and electricity from NPU, your bills will decrease. If you are a four-service customer, your bill will increase by less than 3.5%, or about $13 a month, which is 43 cents a day.
We propose investing $4.7 million in our water infrastructure which will help us to avoid the many serious issues that have become a crisis in Flint, Michigan. We also propose investing $2.5 million in our wastewater treatment system, continuing to take proactive steps so we respond to fewer emergencies.
If approved, NPU’s electric rate would be 10% lower than investor-owned utilities in Connecticut and our natural gas rates would be essentially the same. Our water and sewer rates would be very competitive – not the highest and not the lowest – when compared to other communities in the region. And we do not know of any other provider of water and wastewater services that is proposing to make investments on the scale the NPU has envisioned for the next several years.
We understand that rate increases are never popular. But in this case, we feel strongly that the adjustments we have proposed are both reasonable and sensible, given the importance of safe water and wastewater services to our community and our future.