The average Suffolk County Water Authority ratepayer will see a $4.18...

The average Suffolk County Water Authority ratepayer will see a $4.18 increase in their quarterly bill. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Suffolk County Water Authority customers will see an average $4.18 increase in their quarterly water bills beginning June 1.

The average ratepayer will pay about $574 per year for water, up from about $557 per year. It amounts to a 2.99% increase for the utility's 1.2 million customers — lower than the previous year's 4.1% hike. 

The rate increase is included in SCWA’s $304 million budget for 2024-25 that was approved 4-0 at its monthly board meeting Thursday.

Water authority officials said their rates are still lower than neighboring providers, some of which charge $1,000 annually. 

“SCWA has continued to have some of the lowest rates in New York,” said utility spokesman Dan Dubois. 

Nationwide, the monthly average rate increase stood at 6% last year, according to consumer research firm J.D. Power.

The local increase comes as SCWA continues to receive satisfaction scores lower than the nationwide average, according to a May 2023 study from J.D. Power. The study looked at 92 utility providers serving populations of at least 400,000. It did not include any other Long Island water providers.

Suffolk ranked 62 and received a satisfaction score of 717 out of 1,000 — lower than the nationwide average of 734, and lower than that of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection at 784.

J.D. Power managing director John Hazen noted SCWA scored below average in categories across the board, including maintaining water infrastructure and conservation. 

“There isn't one magic bullet [to improve],” he said. “It's a combination of things.”

SCWA representatives said they could not comment on the survey. They noted the opinion research firm they contracted with, Probolsky Research, said in September the utility had a 73% service approval rating.

"We’re proud of our record of customer service and will always work to enhance the service we provide our customers," Dubois said in an email.

SCWA's spending plan includes the agency's annual operating and maintenance budget at $158.7 million, a $103.5 million capital improvement budget and a debt service budget at $41 million. It represents a total 6% increase over last year's budget. The plan calls for using about $9.8 million in reserve funds.

The $32.07 service charge will rise to $33.18, according to the water authority. The tier 1 consumption charge, or the standard rate, will increase 9 cents for every thousand gallons to about $2.41 from a current $2.33 per thousand gallons, the authority said.

The conservation rate, which is triggered when customers use more than 89,760 gallons per quarter, will increase 13 cents per thousand gallons for amounts above the threshold. It will rise to $3.48 per thousand gallons, from a current $3.36, the authority said.

SCWA’s $80 annual surcharge to remove PFAS and 1,4-dioxane from groundwater remains unchanged.

A rise in debt service payments is driving the bulk of the spending increase, said SCWA CFO Chris Cecchetto. The utility has not borrowed for capital projects in three years and has seen its outstanding debt decrease from about $975 million in 2020 to about $902.9 million in 2023, he said. It’s projected to be $901.8 million this year.

“We hope to continue doing that so that less of our funds are allocated to the debt service budget in the future,” Cecchetto said.

SCWA CEO Jeff Szabo said the utility has contracted with Great Neck public relations firm Zimmerman-Edelson to communicate with customers and recently produced four 30-second commercials starring staffers. The $244,000 contract was awarded in April and includes the cost of the media buys.  

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