Service charge

Suffolk Water Board customers face 4.7% rate, service charge rises June 1

Suffolk County Water Authority customers face a 4.7% increase in tariffs and service charges from June 1 as the county’s largest water provider continues to score relatively low in a national ranking of customer satisfaction.

Average residential customers will see an overall bill increase of $1.73 per month, the authority said.

The increases, which are greater than last year’s 4% jump, were cited by consumer research firm JD Power for generally lower customer satisfaction scores across the country.

The Suffolk authority’s board on March 31 approved a $1.40 increase in the quarterly customer service charge to $30.57 every three months from the current $29.17, a jump of 4.79%.

The standard water consumption rate also increases, to $1.661 per centi-cubic foot from $1.586 per CCF, a jump of 4.7%. That translates to an increase of 10 cents per thousand gallons, to $2.22 from the current $2.12 per thousand gallons, the authority said.

And the conservation rate, which is triggered when customers use more than 89,760 gallons per quarter, will increase to $2.38 per CCF, from $2.289 currently, for those who use more than 120 CCFs in a single quarter. billing. That translates to an increase of 14 cents per thousand gallons for above-threshold amounts to $3.20 per thousand gallons from the current $3.06, the authority said. About a quarter of the utility’s 400,000 customers triggered the retention rate in 2020.

The utility’s water quality and treatment fee remains unchanged at $20 per quarter.

Average Suffolk Water Authority bills jumped just over 4% last year, the utility said, after a year in which 7,441 customers filed complaints about high bills. The utility cited those complaints, most of which were recorded during the higher summer usage period, by resetting the conservation rate trigger a little higher and moderating the overall increases from those recommended by its consultants. .

For two consecutive years in JD Power’s survey of large and medium-sized county water utilities, the Suffolk County Water Authority finished third to last among its nine large Northeast peers, with a score of 719 out of 1,000. New York City water customers, by comparison, scored 763 for their utility and New Jersey American Water scored 752.

Andrew Heath, senior director of utility intelligence at JD Power, noted in a statement that the rate relief measures enacted in the early days of the pandemic have largely expired, “as have the forces of inflation resulted in a significant increase in the residences’ monthly bills”. customers.”

As a result, he said, customer satisfaction “has declined across all study factors, as the average monthly water utility bill in the United States is now up $5.73 per compared to 2020 – without a corresponding increase in consumption”.

Heath, in an email, said price was not the only factor keeping Suffolk’s score low.

“Suffolk County is below the regional average for satisfaction in four of the six factors that determine overall satisfaction,” he said. “That includes price satisfaction…but that’s not the only cause for dissatisfaction.”

Suffolk County Water Authority spokesman Tim Motz said: “We certainly understand why customer satisfaction in the water supply industry would be affected by rising water rates caused by the rising costs during the pandemic, but we continue to maintain water rates that are among the lowest in the region and we always strive to keep them that way.

Of 90 water utilities surveyed across the county, Suffolk scored better than 29. The JD Power survey, based on interviews with 33,054 customers across the country, is conducted in four waves from June 2021 to March 2022.

New York American Water, which served some 120,000 Nassau customers during the period, is not included in JD Power’s study because its customer base is too small. The company, which was acquired by Liberty Utilities earlier this year, has faced criticism from customers for years over high rates and poor water quality.

Heath said utilities that want to tackle the problem “really have to take proactive communications with customers and customer service seriously.”