Talon News - Good Local News

By Debbie Israel
TALON 

UILITY RATES INCREASE ?

City Studies Wastewater Increase of 60%

 


City officials and staff, a couple of school officials and a few interested members of the public, including a business owner, attended a meeting held in City Hall on April 4 to discuss a plan for Aztec’s utility rates. City Manager Josh Ray said, “This is not the first draft, this is maybe 19 or 20,” referring to the study being presented by Raftelis, a registered Municipal Advisor company. This meeting was to present info and get direction from City Commissioners. “If there is a direction that you don’t want to go, we need to know that,” Ray told commissioners. Members of the Raftelis team, Andrew Rheem, Tom Sullivan, and Colin Drat, have been working diligently with staff to prepare this study, which should be completed by June. Any rate changes will go into effect July 1.

According to the study, anyone who partakes of Aztec’s city utilities should be prepared for increases in those rates, and the biggest increase will most likely be to the wastewater portion of your bill.

The meeting on April 4 was held to present some history and projections to commissioners to find out what direction they feel would be best for the city to take.

Aztec has a “joint utility fund” which is fed from the three major utilities: water, wastewater and electricity. Historically, in Aztec, the electric part of that trio has been subsidizing the other parts. The study separated the three utilities and looked at each individually. According to Raftelis’s presentation, some of the objectives are to make sure the funds operating needs are met, to minimize debt, to fund capital requirements to maintain service levels and meet regulations, to provide stable revenues, and to maintain the lowest possible rates while meeting service expectations and regulatory requirements. When looked at separately, each utility should be able to support itself and prepare for capital projects that will need to be addressed in the near future.

The study shows that the use of water and wastewater in our city has declined by .5% per year, and electric usage has stayed steady. It also tells us that there have been no utility rate increases in the past five years. Those days seem to be over!

Looking at water, in order for the fund to stay in good shape, the study shows that the typical bill that now runs approximately $32.20 per month (using 5000 gallons), would need to rise slightly 9% per year. That $32 bill will turn into almost $50 by 2022. Two major projects that are planned for in the projection are the dredging of water reservoirs #1 and #2 to make them hold more and run more efficiently. Those two reservoirs have not been cleaned out for many years. The newest reservoir, Tiger Pond, shouldn’t need much maintenance for several years.

The study of wastewater holds the biggest “sticker shock,” with a proposed increase of 60% in 2018, followed by smaller increases in the next years. Years 2020 - 2022 would only have a 3.5% increase that is based on inflation. Those increases would cause an average bill to go from $36.50 in 2017 to $87.42 in 2022. Part of that increase is based on the debt that has been incurred in the wastewater system: the new sewer outfall line that is nearing completion and the new sewer plant at the south end of Oliver Dr.

As I mentioned earlier, electric fund is the one that has supported the other two utilities for years, and therefore, there are no huge increases in the cost of electricity: no increase in 2018; 1% in 2019; followed by 2% the following three years. This would cause the typical electric portion of the city bill to go from $79.27 today to $84.96 in five years.

Aztec School Superintendent Kirk Carpenter and his Finance Director Gary Montoya were concerned about the school’s solar project that has been approved by City Commissioners. Carpenter said, “We’re being held hostage by a rate study, even though we aren’t a part of the moratorium,” referring to the city’s halt to solar projects until this study is completed. Understandably, the schools need to know if their project is financially feasible before they continue with it.

Remember, this meeting was presenting information and no action is being taken yet. The numbers assume that there will be no new people, no new housing, and that the 3000 utility accounts the city new holds, remain steady.

Aztec City Commissioners should be contacted to voice your support or concerns:

Austin Randall, (505) 330-6665, [email protected]

Sally Burbridge, (505) 947-4143, [email protected]

Sherri Sipe, (505) 330-0331, [email protected]

Katee McClure, (505) 330-4616, [email protected]

Sheri L. Rogers , (505) 635-5249, [email protected]

 

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