St. Louis Water Rates

St. Louis Water Rates

The St. Louis “Post” endorses the proposition of Commissioner Wall as to a reduction of the rate to manufacturers as follows: Water Commissioner Wall says that a rate of 6 cents per 1,000 gallons can be made to manufacturers without an increase of rates to the general consumer. Comptroller Player says that it cannot be done; that even the 8-cent rate is less than cost, and he cites a provision of the charter which requires that rates shall “produce revenue sufficient at least to pay the running expenses of the Water Department and the interest on all such bonds (water works bonds) and renewals.” The outstanding water works bonds, according to the last report of the comptroller, amount to $2,024,000, on which an annual interest of $101,722 is paid. From the same authority the cost of maintenance and operation of the water works, including “new work and special purposes’ for the fiscal year 1915, was $1,492,275.16, amounting with interest to $1,593,997.16. This is an average cost, including interest, of $4,367 per day. The average daily consumption of water during the year was 85,000,000 gallons, and the average cost per thousand gallons was therefore 5.1 cents. The net revenue from the Water Department for the year, after setting aside the interest on the bonds and sinking fund, amounting together to $401,722.50, was $1,905,009. It would seem from these figures that a 6-ccnt rate would be ample to cover the cost of maintenance and operation and the interest on the bonds, without an increase of rates to the general consumer, notwithstanding the fact that the cost of distribution to residences is relatively greater than to meter consumers. But aside from that, there is the question of the city’s material interests, its advancement and its prosperity, to be considered. It should be possible, it should be made possible, to put our manufacturers on an equal plane with the manufacturers of competing cities. There should be no handicaps to St. Louis business. Nor should the element of common justice be overlooked. Under the present system the largest consumers are paying the highest rates, which is a reversal of business rules. As a contributor to this page pointed out yesterday, the meter users constitute but 7 per cent. of the consumers, yet they pay 38 per cent. of the total revenue. Is this right?

ST. LOUIS WATER RATES.

ST. LOUIS WATER RATES.

Comptroller Player, of St. Louis, Mo., made the following statement to the city council regarding water rates. It will be interesting in view of the proposed reduction in that city. He says: “There can be no difference of opinion as to the judicious expenditure in the past of large amounts of money in the creation of undoubtedly the most complete and highly efficient system of waterworks in the country. Any reduction in the rates, therefore, at this time would be in the nature of a hazardous experiment and could not possibly be justified by endeavoring to meet the low rates fixed by cities such as Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland, where but one system of pumping is required and where the water is free from heavy suspended matter. The w’aterw’orks bonded indebtedness of St. Louis is phenomenally small in proportion to the debt imposed 011 the system in other large cities, and the present rates to consumers are certainly not exorbitant by comparison. It has even been suggested that the meter rates to a certain class of large consumers should be reduced from twelve and a half to two cents per 1,000 gallons, and that the minus quantity in the waterworks revenue fund thereby created be supplied or filled in by the proceeds of a special increase of one cent on the $10 valuation in the rate of taxation for purely municipal purposes, thereby transferring the greater part of the burden of paying for water used by these large consumers from the consumers to the people generally. Such a proposition cannot, of course, he entertained, because, in the first place, no part of the proceeds of the tax for municipal purposes can now, under the present charter provisions be diverted to the maintenance of the waterworks or the extension of the system; and, besides, no water rate can be allowed or fixed on any other principle or consideration than that of producing revenue, exceptional discrimination in rates being prohibited. The installation of meters and the fixing of meter rates should be undertaken with the greatest caution. It is the common experience where the system of flat rates has been abandoned for meter rates, financial wreckage has followed, and, when the time comes that meters are commonly and generally used in St. Louis, it will he an unavoidable necessity, in order to prevent failure and loss in the conduct of the system, to fix, in each class, a minimum of consumption, and at the same time establish a rate sufficient to insure the revenue required for the maintenance, operation and extension of the system. I hope that the plain provisions of the charter relating to the waterworks, both as to the extension of the plant and the distribution of the revenue, will be carefully observed, and that no radical steps in the direction of further reductions in rates will be taken in the near future. When the extension and improvements contemplated by the officials in charge of the waterworks have been completed every feature of our waterworks system will he in perfect condition and capable of providing a water supply sufficient for over 1,000,000 inhabitants.”