Billy Martin has been a man on a mission again this year battling a rate increase for the 2,500 Aqua Virginia (AVI) customers in Botetourt County. He held two public forums on the increase in Blue Ridge as late as two weeks ago. Part of the AVI customers are in his district and others reside in the Valley District.
He spoke to the Botetourt View while in Richmond and sent a list of his talking points in front of the SCC.
The water company has a proposed 9.9 per cent increase. He said Lake Landau brought a chartered bus of Aqua customers to fight the proposed increase. The Botetourt County Board of Supervisors sent a resolution opposing the increase.
Martin said he was pleasantly surprised to hear that the $537,000 plus in storm water monies were not being sought from Botetourt customers. No storm water services are provided to Botetourt customers. But the Aqua increase still baffles the Blue Ridge Supervisor.
Here are his comments to the SCC, slightly edited:
“Good morning Your Honor and Board members,
My name is Billy Martin. I am with the Board of Supervisors in Botetourt County and I am here today representing approximately 2500 Aqua Virginia customers in Botetourt County. Your Honor, we the people of Botetourt County strongly oppose this outrageous and unfair proposed rate increase.
It looks like this is beginning to be a regular thing with Aqua.
Aqua petitioned the VSCC for a $3.2 million year rate increase two years ago.
Aqua had a similar increase four years before that.
Aqua has again petitioned the State Corporation Commission for another rate increase of 9.9% or a $1.469 million increase on its customers. They want to raise rates for the following:
Increase water revenues of $ 936,871 73.8%
Waste water revenues of 531,908 26.2% ( He was later told by SCC official that this portion would not be charged to Botetourt customers.)
Total $1,468,779 100%
• AVI ( Aqua Virginia) said rate increases were a way to recover capital and operating dollars to improve. Well. . . . . so is planning and setting aside funds from their profits for capital expenditures.
• Why doesn’t Aqua have a capital improvement account set up? Why can’t they put money from their profits into this account instead of putting the burden on the customer by way of rate increases?
• It is clear that Aqua takes all their profits for themselves and stick the expenses to their customers. This is irresponsible and outrageous.
• Botetourt County staff recently conducted a survey on water rates in the County and found that Aqua is at a minimum, 25% higher than any other water company in the County, Municipal or Private.
• After reviewing this survey, the Botetourt County Board Of Supervisors drafted and approved a resolution opposing these unreasonable rate requests from Aqua.
• Aqua is asking for an increase in water revenues of $936,871. Why? What has Aqua done in the past two years that requires another rate increase?
• They say it is because of ongoing capital needs that must be met in order to enhance service to customers. What ongoing capital needs are they talking about. There have been no ongoing capital projects in Botetourt County?
So how will this enhance customer service to the customer in Botetourt County?
• AVI also contend it is because of “continuing increases in costs and operating expenses.”What costs are increasing?
What operating expenses are increasing? What is so different from other Municipal and private water companies from Aqua? They haven’t had to raise their rates?
If Aqua’s statements are true, shouldn’t private and municipal water companies be experiencing the same problems/ It appears Aqua is just using this as an EXCUSE to gouge money out of the customers pockets AGAIN.
Again, this is just another EXCUSE to GOUGE money out of the pockets of the citizens of Botetourt County.
I ask again, “Why doesn’t Aqua have a Capital Improvement Account set up for capital needs and expenses with money they receive from profits?
This is not only outrageous but also unfair!
• Aqua says they need this increase to cover costs associated with compliance requirements for State and Federal Regulations.
What regulations or compliance requirements for State and Federal Regulations have changed or been added that require Aqua to raise their rates again? No one can tell me. NONE!
And I’ll ask this question once again; “If this is affecting Aqua like this, why isn’t it affecting the other water companies, both municipal and private, in Botetourt County.
• Aqua says they need this increase due to “deficient earned returns on rate base for the adjusted test year ended June 30, 2011”..
This is just more greed for a large utility company to get more money. In our opinion, just another EXCUSE!
How many more excuses will Aqua keep giving the VSCC to motivate, pressure or convince them to grant another rate increase?
The VSCC is the ONLY ENTITY that can protect citizens in the Commonwealth of Virginia against unfair and unreasonable rate increases. I am asking you to protect the citizens in Virginia, particularly Botetourt County, against these unfair, unreasonable AND UNJUSTIFIED rate increases. Aqua has a monopoly and they know it. What can the citizens do other than appeal to you? They have no other choice except to go without water or dig a well. AVI will simply cut their water service off.
Let’s look at Aqua’s Financial performance so far:
Revenues for the quarter ending March 31, 2012 totaled $170.2 million compared to $163.6 million SPLY or an increase of 4%.
Net Income for the quarter rose 25%, $37.9 million from $30.4 million over SPLY (Same period last year)
Earnings per diluted share rose 23% to $0.27 from $0.22 cent from SPLY. (Same period last year)
Share holders were paid dividends of 6.5% higher than SPLY. (Same period last year)
Aqua America had profits last year of $104.4 million
To date, Aqua has received rate awards in N. J., Ohio, Florida and Illinois. They have rate increases pending in Pa., Texas and Virginia.
When Aqua requested their last increase in 2010, they had retained earnings of $200 million. Two years later at this rate increase request, they have over $508 million in retained earnings. This is OVER a half a BILLION dollars. Why in the world do they need another increase??
Aqua’s reasons and justifications are not credible. If they were, then the other water utilities would be experiencing the same cost related issues.
If this rate increase is approved, it will be nothing less than regulatory theft.
We the people of Botetourt County oppose this rate increase because there is no justification for this.
Your Honor, the Mission Statement for the SCC say, “The SCC will strive to apply law and regulation to balance the interests of citizens, businesses and customers in regulating Virginia’s business and economic concerns and work continually to improve the regulatory and Administrative processes”
Your honor and Board members, “We the people of Botetourt County” request that the Commissioners of the VSCC honor your Mission Statement and deny this unreasonable and unfair request for rate increases. ”
He then gave the Baliff the petitions with 500 signatures and a copy of the Resolution by the Board of Supervisors.
Time will tell as to how the SCC will rule on the rate increase.