City utility customers to see increases come April
Glenwood Springs utility customers will see a collective 6 percent increase in their bills come next month, after City Council last week approved rate adjustments for electric, water and wastewater service.
In addition to a 6 percent hike in city electric rates that had already been discussed earlier this month, Council at its March 19 meeting approved a 5 percent increase in water rates and a 7 percent increase in wastewater service rates.
Just as the electric rate increase is due to recent and planned increases in the wholesale cost in the city’s power purchase agreement with the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska (MEAN), the water/wastewater rates are also intended to cover increased system operating costs.
A recent consultants’ analysis of the water and wastewater funds determined that the city “will be a little short on the revenue side” if rates are not adjusted, according to Glenwood Springs Public Works Director Robin Millyard.
Part of that was due to a decrease in water use during what ended up being a wetter-than-usual spring and summer during 2014, he said.
According to the rate analysis, the city collected $63,000 less in revenue than had been projected for the year.
“The primary reason for reduced revenue was a sales volume decrease of approximately 3 percent compared to (projections),” the study concluded.
The new rates will go into effect with the April billing cycle, which is earlier in the year than usual for the city to impose rate adjustments, Millyard said.
For the electric utility in particular, that’s because the city is playing catch-up after being hit with an unexpected 6.5 percent wholesale cost increase last fall, on top of a 12.5 percent increase in April 2014. The wholesale cost is expected to increase by another 2.5 percent next month.
Under the newly approved rates, the monthly meter charge for residential and both small and large commercial customers will increase from $10.38 to $11.
The per-unit rate for kilowatt hours used will also increase 6 percent for residential and both small and large commercial customers and industrial users.
In the wastewater fund, the 7 percent service rate increase will mean that the city can begin to reduce an approximately $800,000-per-year transfer from its capital projects fund, freeing up some dollars for other infrastructure needs, City Manager Jeff Hecksel explained.
Without a continued fund transfer, though, the necessary customer rate increase would be in the range of 24 percent. The 7 percent rate increase will allow the city to reduce that subsidy by about $160,000 per year, according to the rate study.
Council members inquired about any means to help senior citizens and other residents who are on fixed incomes with the ever-increasing utility costs. While the city itself is unable to do that currently, several assistance agencies, such as Catholic Charities, Salvation Army and LIFT-UP do have programs to help with utility bills, Millyard said.
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