Leesburg Council Adopts Higher Water and Sewer Rates

By Kafia A. Hosh
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 16, 2009

Water and sewer rates will go up next month for Leesburg residents, and out-of-town customers of the public utility system will see a one-time reduction of rates before their bills also increase next year.

The Town Council narrowly voted for the annual rate increases during its meeting Tuesday, despite objections from more than two dozen customers from Leesburg and out of town.

Leesburg was under a court order to repeal the 100 percent surcharge that it imposes on out-of-town customers.

In a lawsuit filed in 2006 by several out-of-town customers, Loudoun County Circuit Judge Thomas D. Horne ruled in March that the surcharge was unreasonably high and unlawful under the state code. He ordered the town to set new rates by Sept. 1.

The town hired an outside consultant to conduct a rate study to create fees in compliance with Horne's order calling for a lower surcharge. Out-of-town residents will have water and sewer surcharges of 41 and 52 percent, respectively, through fiscal 2014.

Out-of-town customers will see a one-time 26 percent reduction in their water rates and a 20 percent reduction in their sewer rates this year. The quarterly bill for an out-of-town customer who uses an average of 18,000 gallons of water will go from $285.30 to $225.18

Water and sewer rates for out-of-town customers will increase by 5 percent over the next two years and then by 4 and 3 percent in fiscal 2013 and 2014.

Town residents will see a 5 percent increase in their water and sewer rates over the next three years, and then a 4 and 3 percent increase in fiscal 2013 and 2014. The quarterly bill for a resident who uses an average of 18,000 gallons of water will increase from $148.86 to $157.50.

Residents and out-of-town customers objected to the new rate structure.

Stewart Curley, a spokesman for the out-of-town residents who successfully sued Leesburg, said their water and sewer bills will go up an average of 10 percent under the new structure.

"We're trying to see where the relief is that we thought was in the court order," he said. "We're not sure that this is a fair or equitable structure."

Other residents complained that under the new rates, the town will base sewer charges on 100 percent of water consumption. Sewer charges had been assessed using the winter quarter method, which is a snapshot of consumption during the winter, when customers' water use is mostly limited to indoors.

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