Hayden to consider water rate increase
December 8, 2010
Steamboat Springs — The Hayden Town Council will consider Thursday whether to raise its monthly water rates by 40 percent and sewer rates 100 percent.
If the second reading is approved, users' base water rate will increase from $19 to $26.60. The base sewer rate would jump from $6 to $12. Each would include a usage fee increase of 10 percent, which amounts to about 35 cents per thousand gallons. Interim Hayden Town Manager Lance Stewart said the base rates would remain below state averages, $44 for water and $21 for sewer. He said Hayden's base rates also are lower than those of many Western Slope communities the town surveyed, including Steamboat Springs and Oak Creek.
Stewart said the water and sewer base rate increases would create a more consistent revenue stream for Hayden's water and sewer fund, or enterprise fund, in an effort to make it self-supporting.
"The water and sewer fund has operated in the red for a long, long time," he said. "That has to be reversed so that it not only breaks even, but builds a base reserve for emergency maintenance and capital improvements."
Stewart said Hayden is required, according to its loan agreement with the state, to keep 110 percent of the annual loan payment (just more than $100,000) in reserve. He said that requirement has been met sporadically during the past several years.
Council members voted, 5-0, Nov. 18 to approve a first reading for the rate increases. Mayor Lorraine Johnson and council member Tom Rogalski didn't attend the meeting.
Council member Bill Hayden said the town likely would have to continue reviewing whether to increase rates until the fund supports itself.
"It wasn't balanced. It was actually running a deficit," he said. "We're taking money out of the general fund for the water and sewer fund. It's supposed to stand on its own. In other words, it was robbing from other funds to support itself."
Stewart said it's common for communities, especially small towns, to struggle with making enterprise funds self-supporting because the costs to run a water plant are typically larger than rates they charge residents and businesses.
In past years, Stewart said, Hayden had to transfer money from its general fund to the enterprise fund to make it break even. He said last year's transfer was $114,000. The town budgeted $45,000 this year. Stewart said he suspected that Hayden would need most of that.
Stewart said the rate increases seem dramatic because even though Hayden has upped rates in recent years, the town didn't increase them enough.
"My recommendation to the board is they continue with this strategy well into the future until the enterprise fund reaches a sustainable level," he said.
The Town Council also is scheduled to consider second readings to approve the 2010 property tax levy ordinance for taxes in 2011 and the 2011 budget appropriations ordinance.
Town Council members also are scheduled to appoint a volunteer to replace Chuck Grobe, who is stepping down because his family plans to move to Craig. The Town Council also is scheduled to appoint a mayor and mayor pro tem.
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