FAQs: Water, Sanitary Sewer & Storm Sewer Billing

Frequently asked questions:

High Water Bills
One of the common reasons for high water bills is a toilet leaking. If a customer has a high water bill the water department will come to the customer’s residence to check for this problem, at no charge to the customer.

Charges
Winona is divided into three districts. The West End of Winona is district 1, the middle of town is district 2 and the East End of town is district 3. Customers in each district receive a water and sewer bill quarterly. Every water bill includes a basic charge. Even if there is no water consumption, the basic charge will be on the bill. Sewer charges are based a percentage of the water bill.

Estimated bills
To eliminate estimated water bills, an outside register can be installed, at no charge to the customer. An outside register allows the meter readers to submit an automatic reading without entering the residence. The yellow meter card left for the occupant to read the meter would also be eliminated.

Assessments
City Ordinance, 22.17, allows for assessment of unpaid utility bills to a property. All water,  sewer, and storm sewer bills remain with the property, not the person who incurred the expense.

2013 Water & Sanitary Sewer Rate Increases
On September 4, 2012, the Winona City Council approved a 4.5% overall rate increase for both the Water Utility and the Sanitary Sewer Utility that will be effective January 1, 2013. The rate increases are necessary to recover the increase in operating and maintenance costs along with ensuring adequate funds for planned capital improvements and replacements. Each utility plans to continue replacing infrastructure as each system has portions that are very old and susceptible to leaks and breaks. Lastly, the capital improvement plan also includes making upgrades to the water and sanitary sewer treatment plants, wells, and lift stations. What is the increase of 4.5% for in 2013:

The answers below primarily pertain to Residential customers with a <1” meter (a less than one inch meter is used for the example because that would be for a typical customer using 1,650 cubic feet per quarter). For Commercial and Industrial customers, please call the Winona City Hall at (507) 457-8262 for an annual bill analysis based on your specific meter size, water usage, and sanitary sewer discharge.

Water Rate Adjustment:

1.       What is the increase of 4.5% for in 2013?
The water utility rate increase of 4.5% is necessary to recover the increase in operation and maintenance costs of the water utility. In addition, the water utility plans to invest over $700,000 in 2013 in capital projects, including the replacement of main water lines that are very old and vulnerable to leaking and breaking. The rate increase is also part of a plan set forth in a rate study completed in 2011 to ensure the utility has enough reserves to pay for the planned capital projects while meeting the debt service payments.
The utility continues to control its expenses and do financial planning to minimize necessary rate increases. However, costs continue to increase, and the water system needs continuous upgrades and replacements as parts of the system are very old.
2.       Why did the Water Service Fee increase from $18.75 to $21.75 per quarter for the less than 1” meter size?
The increase is to recover a portion of the fixed costs of serving you each quarter regardless of the amount of water you consume. The fixed costs include billing, customer service, meter reading, and meter maintenance. The fee also pays for a portion of the infrastructure that is in place and ready to serve you water when you need it. The infrastructure includes the wells, the water treatment plants, and the pipes in the ground to bring water to your house.
3.       What is the increase in the Volume charge?
The volume rate for usage from December through May is staying the same at $2.72 per 100 cubic feet. Meanwhile, the volume rate for usage from June through November is increasing $0.04 to $2.81 per 100 cubic feet. The higher rate during the summer months is to promote water conservation.
4.       What is the overall water increase to a Residential customer with <1” Meter in 2012?
For a typical customer using 1,650 cubic feet per quarter, which is about 12,300 gallons, will see an increase from $64.04 to $67.37, or $3.33 per quarter.
2013 Water Rates

Sanitary Sewer Adjustment:

1.       What is the overall increase of 4.5% for in 2013?
The overall rate adjustment of 4.5% is necessary to recover the increase in operation and maintenance costs of operating the sanitary sewer utility while providing reserves for future capital improvement projects. The sanitary sewer utility plans to spend over $2.5 million in the next few years to make necessary upgrades to the treatment plant and lift stations. In addition, the increase is necessary to pay for repair and replacement of the aging sewer mains when they break.
2.       Why did the Availability Fee increase from $5 to $7.50 per quarter?
The availability fee was implemented in 2012 to better recover a portion of the fixed costs of billing and recording keeping along with administration and insurance costs. The increase in the quarterly fee for 2013 is the result of continuing to move towards cost-based rates and to recover increased costs that were previously mentioned.
3.       What is the overall sanitary sewer increase to a Residential customer?  
For a typical customer using 1,650 cubic feet per quarter of water will see an increase from $34.87 to $39.01, or $4.14 per quarter. Even after the 2013 rate increase, Winona has the one of the lowest Residential sanitary sewer bills among other regional utilities.
2013 Sewer Rates
2013 Increase for a Typical Residential Customer Using 550 Cubic Feet per Month
Increase for a typical residential customer using 550 cubic feet per month