Ashwaubenon to seek water rate increase
By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – The village will ask the Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) to increase water rates by almost 20%.
The Ashwaubenon village board passed a motion July 27 to send a letter to the PSC as part of its water rate increase application.
Unlike the village being able to change sewer rates on its own, Public Works Director Doug Martin said the water utility is governed by the PSC, so when the village wants to change water rates, they have to be reviewed by the PSC.
“(The water rate review process) takes anywhere from nine to 14 months,” he said. “That’s in a good year. We’ve completed a sewer rate review.”
Martin said the sewer and water utilities needed rate reviews this year.
“The water rate review is just starting,” he said. “The information was just submitted to the PSC, and you basically take your information and put it into their form, and it spits out a number. It isn’t complete at that point in time – that just starts the review process. That was completed in July.”
Martin said the village can be proud of the sewer and water utilities both having “a substantial amount of money and cash on hand.”
“That’s something that the village feels, or that we feel, when it comes to rate setting, can be used to temper the rates,” he said.
Martin said Ashwaubenon’s current water rates were approved in 2006.
“It’s been 15 years since we’ve had a rate review,” he said. “The rate we had has served us well up to this point. In 2006, we went down and talked to the PSC. That’s when we connected on the Green Bay Water (Utility). We went down, talked to them as to how to set the rates to make it as fair as possible for the community. That’s what we’re requesting again here.”
Martin said the village is seeking PSC approval to adjust water rates over the next two to three years.
He said Ashwaubenon refinanced all its bonding for the connection to the Green Bay Water Utility.
As a result, Martin said a substantial portion of the current water rate is for paying for the transmission main pipeline to connect to Green Bay and run to the village’s water towers, as well as for upgrading Ashwaubenon’s backup well stations.
“That’s paid off in 2026,” he said. “You see in a lot of communities where they’re tearing up their roads, replacing their water mains and whatnot right now. The village will probably have to start doing that in 2028, 2029, in that timeframe. So, there’s this window there where that rate quote-unquote really isn’t necessary, because the bonding has been paid off.”
Martin said not a lot of communities have the opportunity to be flexible with water rates.
“As the layers of government go up from local to state to federal, there’s the ability to look at things more fluidly, if you will…,” he said.
“We’re asking to be able to have those discussions in this rate-setting process over the next… nine to 14 months.”
Village President Mary Kardoskee thanked Martin for keeping Ashwaubenon’s water rates steady for 15 years.
Other than Green Bay, Martin said Ashwaubenon has the second-lowest water rates in the area, because of the decisions made by the village board.
“We’re looking to continue that… but we also don’t want to make it a burden,” he said. “It won’t be, but we also don’t want to increase it any more than we have to, and we want to do it in step phases.”
Martin said the village’s rate consultants mentioned a lot of communities will ask the PSC for a gradual increase in water rates, but not many communities will get it.
“A lot of those communities also aren’t in the same position where we are,” he said.
The letter to the PSC states the village filed for an overall rate increase of approximately 19.64%.
“To preclude rate shock and more palatably incorporate the rates the PSC ultimately authorizes, the village is respectfully requesting consideration from the PSC, at the appropriate time, for some discussion with respect to options for phasing in the new rates,” the letter states. “While the village understands this is not a typical avenue sought by utilities or typically approved by the PSC, the village feels there are a few aspects to its current water utility financial position that support this request.”
Trustee Gary Paul said he favored gradual increases in water rates, instead of what he called a “big bang financially,” to have less burden on water utility customers.
Trustee Tracy Flucke said village residents wouldn’t be happy about water rates increasing by 20% in one year.
“If we can spread (the increase) out, that would be great,” she said.