Milwaukee Water Works Pursuing Rate Changes
With Waukesha coming as a customer, utility pursuing changes to its authorized return rate.
The Milwaukee Water Works (MWW) is pursuing broad adjustments to its water prices. And the changes will impact far more than just Milwaukee residents and businesses, because the City-owned utility sells water to 15 suburbs.
“This is a very comprehensive process, digging deep into our finances, making sure we are in fact recovering our cost of service from our ratepayers,” said Superintendent Karen Dettmer to members of the Common Council Public Works Committee on Friday.
Trilogy Consulting was hired to support the evaluation. The firm will help the utility present what is known as a “conventional rate case” to the Public Service Commission.
“As part of this resolution we will be coming back likely in September or October after we have had a conversation with the Public Service Commission,” said Dettmer. The resolution authorizes the utility to pursue the adjustments, but does not approve any increases (or decreases).
Details on actual rates would come in the future. “We don’t really look at it as a range. What we negotiate with the Public Service Commission is a rate of return,” said the superintendent in response to a question from Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II.
“We want to make sure we are going through this in a stepped process so customers don’t see a big increase in any one year,” said Dettmer. She said the return pursued would be increased as Waukesha comes online as a customer. The suburban community is expected to pay at least $3.2 million annually for water once the pipeline is completed.
Whatever the new rates end up being, Dettmer doesn’t expect it to be the biggest cost on resident’s water bills. Water charges on the bill, now known as the Municipal Service Bill, amount to approximately 25% of the bill’s total estimated the superintendent. The city uses the bill to charge for other municipal services like street lighting, garbage pickup and snow plowing.
City of Milwaukee non-residential users pay a lower rate per cubic foot as their usage increases, a pricing structure that benefits large users like Molson Coors. Suburban businesses in municipalities that buy water directly (at retail pricing) don’t see the same benefit.
The utility’s 2021 budget is $150.1 million.
The committee unanimously recommended approval. The full council will review the request on July 27th.