Talon News - Good Local News

By Sally Burbridge
City of Aztec, Mayor 

AZTEC UTILITY RATES

From our Mayor

 


Some additional information that has not been explained previously and to correct a minor statement that has been put to the public. My delay in responding was due to researching specific information so that I could present a more complete picture of our utility situation. Please note, that of our remaining four City Commissioners (including myself), two of them were not in office when the most recent utility rate increases were put into effect and one other Commissioner was new to office for the previous rate increases.

As noted in the previous paragraph, the statement that the City has not increased rates in over seven years is not completely accurate. We have been monitoring all utility rates and departments closely since I was first elected to the Commission about 11 years ago. At that time our water and waste water utilities operated significantly in the red.

The philosophy adopted by previous governing bodies was to supplement those utilities with revenue from the electric utility so that the three combined utilities were in the black. This obviously resulted in electric rates that were significantly elevated above surrounding communities.

The Commission has changed this philosophy over time and has worked for the past decade to make each utility operate in the black on its own. This has not been an easy adjustment, but some feel it is necessary due to the fact that some Aztec residents are not connected to all Aztec utilities. This creates a situation where some residents could be paying increased rates on utilities they do have, to pay for others they do not have.

The seven years without an increase statement, while not entirely accurate, is true that the City has not done an across the board increase for utilities during my time in office. We have implemented a waste water increase of $3 base rate and $1 per 1000 gallons in 2013.

In 2010 the City implemented a $3 base rate increase on waste water and a $3 base rate increase on water.

In addition to periodically (every 3-4 years) implementing utility rate increases, we have also been taking steps to reduce costs of operations for both water and waste water utilities during this time. We have invested in automation technology for both treatment plants and these investments along with additional upgrades have allowed the City to reduce operating costs and personnel costs. Previous to these steps being taken, water and waste water combined had 7 employees to operate the plants. We are now down to 4 employees. Part of these reductions in staff also eliminated a Department Head position and combined the plants under Public Works resulting in additional cost savings.

During that time we have not increased electric rates with the exception of the fluctuating PCA (power cost adjustment) which was an additional charge from our previous power contract. Most recently, citizens have been receiving a credit on their electric utility billing (the PCA) which is directly from our reduced cost to purchase power under our new contract. Citizens began seeing this credit during August/September of 2016 and it is reflected on each monthly utility bill.

Finally, the way in which the information from the first phase of our utility rate study was presented in some local media is misleading. At our workshop this past Monday evening, our consultant presented options about how rates MIGHT be structured, such as how much should base rate be versus how much should be usage or consumption; also how much should residential be versus commercial. There are many ways rates might be put together that may or may not result in a flat 60% increase in one's utility bill.

The Commission has not given direction or preference to how much or in what way rates might change. The Commission will hold a workshop on Monday, May 15 at 5:30 pm at City Hall to further discuss and give direction to staff about information we would like to see and give general direction for ongoing deliberation of the utility rates.

Again, we will not be making a decision that night at the workshop. While the public is always welcome to attend workshops and I am greatly appreciative for everyone who attended and asked questions at the last workshop, you are welcome and invited to attend, but this next workshop is a “working session” for the Commission and is not a public input setting. - Sally

 

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