SD1 FAQ

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Billing Topics:

Q: Why did SD1 switch to monthly billing? Does monthly billing cost more (additional paper work, envelops, etc.)?

Q: Why did SD1 eliminate the special meter program? 

Q: Can you explain the charges on the bill I receive from SD1?

Q: How are SD1’s sanitary sewer rates determined?

Q: How do I start or stop my sanitary sewer service?

Rate and Finance Topics:

Q: Why did SD1 have so many years without a rate increase until 2011?

Q: What factors could potentially impact the future of SD1’s finances?

Q: How do SD1’s rates compare to other cities?

Q: How often is SD1 audited?

Staffing Topics:

Q: Why does SD1 have law enforcement at their payment window located in the main lobby?

Q: How does SD1 determine the number of employees that need to be present at a job site?

General Topics:

Q: What are the differences between the services provided by local water districts and SD1?

Q: What is SD1’s Record Management Policy?

Q: What is SD1’s bidding process for contracts?

Q: What are some of the benefits of a regional approach to addressing infrastructure?




Q: Why did SD1 switch to monthly billing? Does monthly billing cost more (additional paper work, envelops, etc.)?
A: Based on customer comments and feedback received from a volunteer focus group, three billing changes were suggested for residential customers:
  1. Consistent Billing – Eliminate the summer water use billing peaks that occurred when customers were billed based on actual water usage and provide customers with a consistent billing amount for the ease of budgeting and planning.
  2. Monthly Billing – It is easier to budget for a monthly bill than a quarterly bill. 
  3. Revise the Billing Methodology – Avoid billing customers for outside water use (such as watering lawns and gardens) that does not enter the sanitary sewer system.
As a result of this customer feedback, SD1 created two classes for billing purposes, residential and non-residential. Residential customers are now billed as follows:
  1. A winter usage factor is captured for residential customers and this usage factor is utilized for the year (May 1 through April 30). The usage factor is recalculated every year.
  2. The usage factor allows SD1 to bill residential customers monthly, hopefully assisting customers with their personal budgeting process.
  3. The usage factor methodology allows all residential customers to receive the benefit of not being charged for outside water use. Prior to the change in billing methodology, only 7% of SD1’s residential customers received a credit for outside water use.
Learn more about sanitary sewer billing here and storm water billing here.

The additional administrative costs for switching to monthly billing were considered. After looking at what it would cost for additional postage and paper (please note that switching to monthly billing did not require SD1 to hire any additional staff), the total additional cost per account holder per year for monthly billing is $3.90 or $0.33 per month. This cost is offset by the following:
  1. “Second Notices” no longer have to be issued to delinquent residential accounts. The following month’s bill now serves as the notice of delinquent balances. On average, approximately 15% to 20% of the accounts were receiving “Second Notices.”
  2. SD1 has partnered with the CheckFree Corporation to offer e-billing and online billing statements. This paperless e-billing option reduces printing and postage costs. Currently, more than 23,300, or 26%, of our accounts are using this option and the numbers grow every month.
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Q: Why did SD1 eliminate the special meter program for residential customers?
A: SD1 eliminated the special meter program for the residential class of customers for three reasons:
  1. Only 7% of residential customers were participating in the program, so 93% were not getting a refund on outside water usage. The winter usage factor methodology allows all residential customers to receive the benefit of not being charged for outside water use.
  2. The cost of the special meter was high at over $100 for the meter and installation. Since the meters are mechanical, they had a high rate of failing over time. 
  3. The administrative cost to facilitate the special meter program was high. The special meter program is still available to non-residential customers.
Non-residential customers may still choose to enroll in our special meter program. Please click here (PDF) to review the terms and conditions of the program as stated in section 403 of SD1's Rules and Regulations. Customers should read and understand these regulations prior to purchasing and installing the special meter.

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Q: Can you explain the charges on the bill I receive from SD1?
A: SD1 bills customers for two distinct services: sanitary sewer services and storm water services.
  1. Sanitary Sewer Service Charge – SD1 bills for the conveyance and treatment of sewage from residential and non-residential (commercial and industrial) customers. The revenue generated by the sanitary sewer service charge also helps fund improvement projects necessary to maintain the wastewater infrastructure (pipes, pump stations and treatment facilities) and specific projects and programs required by SD1’s Consent Decree.

    The amount charged for sanitary sewer service is based on winter water usage for residential customers and actual metered water usage for non-residential customers.

  2. Storm Water Charge - The storm water charge is used to fund the Regional Storm Water Management Program, comply with the US EPA storm water regulations and operate, maintain and improve the public storm sewer system.

    The amount charged for storm water services is calculated using a very specific impervious area formula that is widely used and accepted by storm water utilities across the nation. Based on a statistical analysis of residential properties in Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties, it was determined that the average impervious area per property is 2,652 square feet. Based on this data, SD1 has designated an equivalent residential unit (ERU) equal to 2,600 square feet.

    All residential properties are charged a single flat monthly fee based on one ERU. Non-residential property owners including schools, churches and local governments are billed monthly based on the number of ERUs that are represented by the impervious area of the property, or the current storm water fee per 2,600 square feet of impervious area.

    The storm water charge is increased (or decreased) annually based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the Greater Cincinnati area.
To view the source used to determine the local CPI, click here.

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Q: How are SD1’s sanitary sewer rates determined?
A: Similar to other wastewater utilities around the country, SD1’s budget is funded by the revenue it collects through sanitary sewer rates and fees. SD1’s Board of Directors is responsible for setting these rates and fees, and must ensure that they are able to fund costs related to the operation and maintenance of the infrastructure, capital improvement project needs and debt service payments. These expenses include costs to maintain over 1,700 miles of sanitary sewer line, salaries and benefits for SD1’s employees, major initiatives such as the ongoing construction of the Western Regional collection system and upgrades and repairs to existing sewers, pump stations and treatment plants, all of which enable SD1 to protect public health and the environment.

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Q: How do I start or stop my sanitary sewer service?
A: To activate or cancel your sanitary sewer service, residential or non-residential, please contact your water district. SD1 bills from water district records, therefore these changes must be made through them.
  • Boone County Water District: 859-586-6155
  • Florence Water District: 859-371-5714 
  • Northern Kentucky Water District: 859-578-9898
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Q: Why did SD1 have so many years without a rate increase until 2011?
A: From 1980 through 1995, SD1 only owned, operated and maintained approximately 124 miles of main trunk sewer lines, 24 major pump stations and one main treatment plant in Campbell and Kenton counties. Each of the individual cities and counties owned, operated and maintained their own respective collection systems. The rates charged by SD1 during this time frame were sufficient to support the operations, maintenance and capital improvement needs. There was no need to raise the sewer usage rates during this time period. In fact, sewer rates were decreased in 1986.

During 1995 and 1996, SD1 assumed ownership of most of the wastewater collection systems in Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties, including more than 1000 miles of sewer line and 100 pump stations. At that time, the Board of Directors decided to not increase sewer rates for a five-year period (i.e. 1995 - 2000).

The consolidation of Northern Kentucky’s sanitary sewer systems highlighted the need for rehabilitation and reconstruction of older facilities, construction of extensions and enhancements to improve water quality throughout the service area.

In 1995, SD1 was required by the Kentucky Division of Water to complete a Regional Facility Plan that defined the strengths and weaknesses of the existing system and made recommendations for additional facilities required to serve the needs of Northern Kentucky over the next 20 years.

The Regional Facility Plan detailed the steps necessary to improve water quality, maintain environmental compliance and address system-wide capacity issues. It recommended the most cost-effective alternatives to phase out package treatment plants and failing septic systems, reduce the amount of storm water improperly entering the sanitary sewer system, address sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) and combined sewer overflows (CSOs), eliminate basement backups and rehabilitate and improve deteriorating sections of the sewer system.

To identify the revenue requirements associated with the improvements detailed in the Regional Facility Plan, SD1 conducted an extensive rate study in 1999 and held a series of customer focus group meetings to obtain input on the need for projected rate increases. In Fiscal Year 2000, SD1 raised rates for the first time in more than 20 years.

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Q: What factors could potentially impact the future of SD1’s finances?
A: The factors that could potentially improve SD1’s rate pro forma projections are:
  1. Lower than projected interest rates on bonds
  2. Additional state revolving loan opportunities
  3. Construction cost stays low 
The factors that could potentially hurt SD1’s rate pro forma projections are:
  1. SD1’s credit rating goes down
  2. Higher than projected interest rates on bonds
  3. Increasing energy costs
  4. Additional and/or stricter US EPA regulations
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Q: How do SD1’s rates compare to other cities?

A: 
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Q: How often is SD1 audited?

A: SD1 is audited annually by a Independent CPA firm in accordance with auditing standards generally accepted in the United States and standards applicable to financial audits in the Government Auditing Standards, issued by the Comptroller General of the United States.

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Q: Why does SD1 have law enforcement at their payment window located in the main lobby?
A: SD1 has contracted with local law enforcement to provide a security presence at our payment window on days when there are scheduled water shut-offs for delinquent accounts. Shut-offs occur two days per week, and a deputy is on site during those afternoons.

This arrangement was put in place in response to the growing number of escalated exchanges occurring between customers and SD1’s customer service representatives. Every employee at SD1 has the right to a safe work place that is free from threats and harm, and it is SD1’s obligation as an employer to ensure the safety of their employees.

SD1 initially considered hiring two part-time employees to provide security at the payment window throughout the day. However, they decided to start with outsourcing the work to local law enforcement before committing to the additional staff. The police officer’s presence has been very effective, as it has reduced the amount of anger and hostility directed toward our customer service representatives.

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Q: How does SD1 determine the number of employees that need to be present at a job site?
A: SD1 determines the number of employees that should be present at a job site based on the complexity of each job. Typically SD1’s construction crews have one crew leader and three crew members to efficiently and effectively perform work. During critical times of the construction phase, SD1’s Assistant Construction Manager will visit job sites, evaluate progress and perform quality assurance and control. SD1 also utilizes the help of external construction crews, which typically have a similar set of crew members. External contractors also require an SD1 inspector and a construction project manager for each construction contract project to help manage the quality and efficiency of the project.

SD1 also has specific programs that may require more SD1 personnel than a typical construction project. For example, an emergency, which may involve a defective sewer on private property or a public health hazard, can require timely teamwork and coordination in order to ensure the proper corrective action is taken. Emergency work can initially involve investigative work crews to determine the scope of the project, which can consist of a TV crew to assist in televising the lines and a sewer vactor truck to help contain any sewage and to assist in any clean up required.

Additionally, if the project requires construction repair work to be done, a construction crew will be called in to complete the job. In a circumstance similar to this, you may see 8 to 12 workers at any one time, although it is not very often that there would be this many workers at a site consistently throughout an eight hour day.

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Q: What are the differences between the services provided by local water districts and SD1?
A: Local water districts are responsible for producing drinking water that is safe for human consumption and conveying the water to our homes, schools and businesses. Water districts take untreated water from local rivers and use a series of treatment technologies to remove contaminants before transporting the clean water to us through an underground network of pipes.

SD1 provides wastewater and storm water management services to Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties in Northern Kentucky. We transport wastewater, from both domestic and industrial sources, through a complex network of pipes and lift stations, to treatment facilities where a combination of technologies is used to remove contaminants from the wastewater before returning it to the Ohio River. SD1 also provides storm water management services for most of the region. These services include the operation and maintenance of more than 400 miles of storm pipe and implementation of a regional Storm Water Management Plan that complies with the US EPA’s Storm Water Phase II regulations.

To learn more about The Water Infrastructure Beneath Your Feet, click here.

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Q: What is SD1’s Record Management Policy?
A: SD1’s Record Management Policy was created to define how SD1 would comply with Kentucky’s public records management statutes (KRS 171.410-171.748), and the rules and regulations of the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives, for maintaining, storing and disposing of public records. The policy was also designed to help keep records organized and maintained, to ensure that they are readily available, to effectively maintain systematic control of recorded information and to ensure that SD1 is creating and maintaining an adequate documentary record of our functions, policies, decisions, procedures and essential daily transactions of business.

To download a PDF of SD1’s Record Management Policy, click here.

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Q: What is SD1’s bidding process for contracts?
A: SD1’s Board of Directors adopted the Kentucky Model Procurement Code (the “Code”) as set forth in Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) 45A.345-45A.460. The Code requires that the purchase of all construction of improvements, materials, supplies, equipment and non-professional services exceeding $20,000 in the aggregate amount be publicly advertised for bids, except as otherwise provided by KRS 45A.370 to 45A.385 (e.g., professional services, emergency purchases, sole source, replacement parts). Bids are advertised in the Kentucky Enquirer, on www.Cincinnati.com, on SD1's website: www.sd1.org, and may also be advertised through other sources when appropriate. Bids received are publicly opened and read at the place and time stated in the solicitation. The bids are tabulated; checked for responsiveness to the stated terms, conditions and specifications; evaluated based on the evaluation criteria stated in the solicitation; and a recommendation is made to SD1's Board of Directors for an award to the bidder who offers the lowest evaluated bid to SD1. SD1's Board of Directors review the recommendation and makes the final determination to authorize award of the contract.

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Q: What are some of the benefits of a regional approach to addressing infrastructure?
A: Prior to 1995, Northern Kentucky communities were faced with aging infrastructure, lack of available sewer capacity, sanitary and combined sewer overflows and pending Clean Water Act violations. In 1994, Northern Kentucky cities and counties joined together to support legislation that amended Kentucky Revised Statutes 220 and allowed SD1 to take over the cities' and counties’ sanitary sewer infrastructure. Most communities did not have sufficient funds to maintain, repair and upgrade their aging sewer infrastructure, address the lack of capacity or address the pending Clean Water Act requirements to eliminate wet weather overflows. By SD1 taking over ownership of the sewer infrastructure, the costs for operation and maintenance and associated capital improvement projects were able to be spread across the entire Northern Kentucky region rather than individual communities’ ratepayers having to shoulder a higher burden within their own area.

For example, in 1996, the Kentucky Division of Water issued a building moratorium in the City of Alexandria due to overflows that occurred at the wastewater treatment plant when it rained. In 1999, the city transferred ownership of their collection system to SD1. In 2007, SD1 completed the construction of the $75 million Eastern Regional collection system and water reclamation facility (WRF), which has allowed the building moratorium to be lifted.

Ensuring available capacity to support future growth and job creation along with addressing the federal law requirements to reduce and eliminate overflows is more cost-effectively addressed through one regional utility rather than trying to get 33 individual cities to work together and fund regional infrastructure across city and county lines. Regional systems like the Eastern Regional Water Reclamation Facility and the new Western Regional collection system and water reclamation facility are being constructed more efficiently and affordably through the regionalized approach.

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