Most Kennewick Irrigation District customers likely will not see a change in their water rates next year.
Chuck Freeman, KID's secretary-manager, said the proposed rate schedule developed by a consultant during more than a year of analyzing costs for delivering water to 22,000 customers isn't quite ready.
"It has to be perfect," Freeman told the Tri-City Herald's editorial board Tuesday afternoon. He said the rate model only was a week old, and there still were a few problems that needed to be fixed.
"We can't get it all done in time to meet the Nov. 2 deadline for having the (2012) assessment roll," Freeman said.
The new rate schedule would replace the tiers and tolls schedule that KID began using in 2009.
KID's board met in special session Tuesday morning to talk about rolling out the new rates. Freeman said that meeting convinced staff and board members that they should wait a year.
Instead of basing charges on the size of parcels and whether the irrigation water is pressurized, the new schedule is designed around costs for delivering the water through KID's canal-piping-pump system.
"Whatever infrastructure you use, you pay for (under the proposed schedule)," Freeman said.
Two key issues that need more work are how to charge owners of condominiums and townhouses, and which parcels can qualify as agricultural users.
The proposed schedule would have about 40 customer categories, each defined by how it receives KID water through canal, pipes and pumps.
The model is complicated enough that a mistake in one category of customer would affect all categories.
"We want this to be fair and equitable for everyone," Freeman said, noting that a new schedule would not bring more money into KID's coffers.
"We didn't do it for any increase in revenue. It improves equity," Freeman said.
But there will be winners and losers because the proposed changes shift the costs, he said.
The delay means most customers can expect to pay the same for 2012 as they saw in 2011.
But owners of townhouses will see a change. They will be charged individually, not as a group through their homeowners' associations.
KID officials believe they have found a way to legally collect the charges by having a master billing agreement with each homeowners' group.
That way, the payment will come from billing the association, even though the charges will be calculated for each townhouse owner.
Other property owners could be hit pretty hard by the proposed rate increases.
Those include owners of golf courses, schools, churches and cemeteries because they have lots of acreage but cannot be classified as agricultural, Freeman explained.
Some of those larger properties that are not agricultural could see their rates more than double under the proposed schedule.