Hayden to consider raising water rates

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Base water rates

These are charged monthly in addition to usage rates:

Residential: $15.95

Senior citizen: $9.57

— Hayden residents could see higher water bills this fall, Town Manager Russ Martin said.

Town staff members plan to present a base rate increase of about $3 a month to the Hayden Town Council at its Sept. 17 meeting. The possible hike results from a shortage in the town's enterprise fund, which includes revenue from water and sewer systems, Martin said.

Part of the problem is a decrease in tap fees, which builders pay to tap into the water system. New construction has slowed, which means that money isn't coming in.

"We generally have identified an operating deficit annually, without tap fees, of about $90,000," Martin said.

Part of the cost is payment on the debt for the water system, which costs $115,000 per year. The town started paying on a 20-year loan eight years ago. The plant was finished in about 2003, Martin said.

"Without that debt payment, we're generally operating in the black," he said. "But with that debt payment, we've got to come up with that."

The enterprise fund was running a $450,000 deficit last year, Martin said. The town expects that to increase by $150,000 to $200,000 this year, putting the total deficit at about $600,000. Hayden can cover that through its reserves but needs to find another way to pay.

"The general fund over the last couple years has been operating in the black like we want it to, but this isn't and has caused us the grief we're dealing with now," Martin said.

If the council approves a change, most residents will pay about $3 more per month on the base rate. Senior citizens probably will see a smaller increase, Martin said. Usage rates, or the cost residents pay based on how much water they consume, wouldn't change.

If tap fees don't pick up, town staff members might have to add another $3 to that increase next year, for a total of $6, Martin said.

The town also will tackle water costs by repairing broken meters and possibly increasing water tap fees 25 percent, he said.

Town Council Member Chuck Grobe said he was interested in evaluating the proposed increase after reviewing the numbers.

"I know we've been basing a lot of enterprise fund on tap fees and growth, and growth kind of stymied, so I need to see what those figures are," Grobe said.

Martin said he expected to present the changes for discussion Sept. 17. If the council approves an increase, residents probably will not see larger bills until October or November, he said.

"Between now and then, I'm sure there'll be feedback and other thoughts," Martin said. "I think we're attacking the problem, and we didn't knee-jerk out of it."

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