The Northampton Bucks County Municipal Authority is an independent, non-profit corporate agent of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, exercising governmental, as well as private corporate power, in assisting the Commonwealth in meeting the needs of its citizens. The Authority provides public water and sanitary sewer services to its ratepayers. The Authority is responsible to its ratepayers and regulatory agencies. Income to operate the Authority is derived directly from the service revenues provided by ratepayers using the public water and sanitary sewer services.
The Municipal Authority is an alternate vehicle for accomplishing public purposes without the direct action of counties, municipalities and school districts. These purposes commonly include the acquisition, operations, financing, and construction of projects such as water supply and sewer systems. The Municipal Authority may fix and collect rentals or other charges and may issue revenue bonds independent of the governing body that appoints its Board.
The Authority is governed under the Municipality Authorities Act as amended and supplemented (the “Act”) of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and pursuant to an ordinance enacted by the Township. The Certificate of Incorporation was issued by the Secretary of the Commonwealth on December 31, 1964. Articles of Amendment were filed with the Department of State of the Commonwealth on December 1, 2006, to extend the life of the Authority for a term of fifty (50) years from such date. The Authority has the power and authority to enter into long term agreements that do not extend beyond its amended term of existence (November 30, 2056).
With pride and dedication we will serve its ratepayers by providing cost effective, safe water and environmentally sound wastewater services.
The Authority must conserve today to sustain tomorrow by protecting its valuable water and environmental resources.
Disputing the “Rates” for Services Charged by a Municipal Authority
A common constituent question involves the method by which a customer within a municipal authority’s service area who feels aggrieved by the rates imposed by the authority for its services can seek redress. The municipal authority may insist that its rates are justified.
The language of Title 53 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, Section 5607(d)(9), speaks of fixing reasonable and uniform rates “in the area served by [a municipality authority’s] facilities.” Under this section, the municipal authority is granted the exclusive authority to set rates for its services. The recipient of these services does not negotiate the amount that he or she is to be charged. These ratepayers, therefore, are intended to be protected by the provision requiring the rates to be reasonable and uniform. These rates are subject only to judicial review, not to the review of the incorporating municipality.
In construing a municipal authority’s ratemaking powers, Pennsylvania courts have repeatedly emphasized and relied upon two controlling legal principles: (1) that a municipal authority has been granted the exclusive power to fix the rates to be charged its customers (ratepayers), and (2) that an authority may exercise, but not abuse, its discretion in fixing rates, which are reasonable and uniform in the area serviced by its facilities. Similarly, in disputes between a ratepayer and a municipal authority concerning an authority’s possible abuse of discretion in fixing rates, the Legislature has designated the court of common pleas as having exclusive jurisdiction to resolve all such questions. Moreover, in exercising its jurisdiction to resolve questions concerning rates set by a municipal authority, a common pleas court may not appropriate the rate-fixing power of the municipal authority by substituting its discretion for that of the authority. The court’s function is to determine whether the ratepayer has met the burden of proof regarding the municipal authority’s alleged abuse of discretion in establishing a rate system that violates the statutory standards of reasonableness or uniformity.
Taken from – Pennsylvania General Assembly – Local