The Breathitt County Court Room in Jackson was full of citizens who were concerned about a recent publication in a local newspaper that reads as follows:
Notice is hereby given that the Breathitt County Water District expects to file an application with the Kentucky Public Service Commission on or about May 27th, 2022, seeking approval of a proposed adjustment to it’s water rates. The proposed rates shall not become effective until the Public Service Commission has issued an order approving these rates.
The rate increase request of 57.66% by the Breathitt County Water District was based on a Rate Study completed by David Foster. According to Water Board members, the Kentucky Public Service Commission requested the rate study. According to the Breathitt Water Board, the KYPSC has the final word on rate increases.
APPCV contacted the KY PSC to get clarification on how the process works. According to them, a rate study is requested when a couple things happen. One being a Water District has not completed a raise increase in a longer than normal period of time. Two, if it is discovered that a particular district doesn’t have resources where funds coming will not cover future cost. Three, when during an investigation the KY PSC feels it is necessary to issue an Rate Study Request.
KY PSC representatives state that the commission DOES NOT set rate increases until a Water District requests a specific rate increase. Once a Water District, much like Electric, or Telephone, formally send in their request, there is then a hearing scheduled and after hearing all information on the request for rate increase, the KY PSC will determine if the request is feasible, too high or too low. The KY PSC will then approve a rate they feel is acceptable for the Water District requesting the increase.
Breathitt Citizens attending the meeting had several questions and comments about the proposed rate increase. As expected, they were not fans of the increase. According to Water Superintendent Estill McIntosh, he was not a fan of the increase either that is was being pushed on them by the KY PSC. Water Board Chairman Bobby Thorpe Jr. and other Board members also stated they were not in favor of the proposed raise.
APPCV contacted several counties surrounding Breathitt County to get an idea of where the Breathitt County Water District stood rate wise compared to those surrounding Breathitt.
All Counties contacted had rates based on 2000 gallon minimum use rate followed by a per 1000 gallon rate up to a point where rates per 1000 gallon would decrease.
COUNTY 2000 gallon Rate Next 1000 Gallon
Breathitt 29.65 14.83 (Current Rate)
Breathitt 46.75 23.38 (Proposed Rate)
Lee 24.62 10.34
Owsley 34.44 8.50
Wolfe 29.29 7.00
Magoffin 19.05 8.53
Perry 33.00 8.05
Powell Valley 23.22 10.06
Knott County 30.39 10.15
Most Breathitt County Citizens we talked to said their discontent came from rumors that the Breathitt County Water District was operating in the “red”, a rumor that the Water board denied. In fact an article in the Breathitt Advocate concerning the rumor stated that the Water Board was in good shape financially and had a value of over 32 million dollars and had an ending cash balance of over 280 thousand at the end of 2020. Most citizens had trouble understanding how the Water Board had positive assets and cash flow but had requested a 57.66% increase. The Water Board members and Water Superintendent hope to ease those concerns.
The end result of the meeting was the Breathitt County Water District Board members voted to present the KYPSC with a 10% rate increase.
APPCV will have more on this story as information becomes available. Complete details are in the following videos.