Belizeans will pay about $0.55 cents more for water on average, as decided by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). Belize Water Services (BWS) had asked for a 16% increase in water rates and initially got 6.4%, but they objected on the basis of a certain portion of the revenue being wrongly calculated.
An independent expert, the auditing firm of Baker Tilly Hulse, was appointed and their report was recently submitted. The PUC has now decided to up its rate of increase to 6.9% for all consumers except in Caye Caulker. PUC Director for Water and Waste Water Rudolph Williams broke down what that translates to for the average consumer at a press briefing this afternoon in Belize City.
“In Schedule 4, there is a detail of the amount that we’ll charge for the mainland water and if you look for the minimum, for 1,000 USG, that will cost $8.55. For mainland water and sewerage for Belize and Belmopan, for 1,000 USG, it will $10.26. For San Pedro, for water and sewer, it will be $25.o7 for 1,000 USG. For Caye Caulker, for 1,000 USG, it will be $23.00.
Reporter: “With the exception of Caye Caulker, all of this is 6.9 cents more than what was the average in the last tariff period?”
Rudolph Williams: “It is 6.9% increase”.
The experts told the PUC that Government’s dividends from the company, which it gave back, were retained earnings for the water provider and not contributed capital under the Regulated Asset Value. This reduced the Value and tariff basket revenue and the recalculation resulted in a rise in rates. BWS had asked for more money to fund its capital projects, particularly the repair of old water pipes and mains across the City in conjunction with the extensive infrastructure works. We asked Williams whether consumers were being asked to pay more for this and he explained that it is taken into account in the company’s business plan.
Rudolph Williams: “The expansion of the distribution and collection networks covers the replacement for word out distribution networks and we also cover the operation costs for Belize Water Services Limited. There is no specifics with respect to which components of the networks the raise is going to be applying to; it is applied countrywide”.
Later, when we asked whether the PUC could see a reduction in rates with a slow-down in BWS’ expenditure for these works, Williams said that all depends on the company’s next business plan which is to be submitted next year. That, he said, may include petitions for additional funds for capital projects and thus an increase in rates and the PUC would not be premature in looking too far into the future.
Williams noted that there were no responses from the general public, either to the Initial Decision or the comments from BWS or the Independent Expert’s Report, all of which were made available for viewing. Asked if this was because the language and calculations were too complicated, he said they tried to make it as simple as possible for all to understand. Those documents as well as the final decision are available through the PUC’s office on Gabourel Lane or its website. The rates are retroactive to April 1st, and should appear on your next BWS bill.