Sunday, December 11, 2011
Hayden The Hayden Town Council on Tuesday night will consider dampening the 71 percent base water rate hike they passed during a first reading earlier this month.
Hayden Mayor Jim Haskins said Sunday that the council plans to shrink the proposed rate increase from $19 to $13 by transferring about $108,000 in projected extra revenue from the town’s 2012 general fund to its enterprise fund.
He said further budget discussions Tuesday could bring the rate increase down even further.
The council on Dec. 1 voted, 4-1, to approve the first reading of an ordinance that would have raised the town’s base water rate by $19.06 to $45.62 per month and sewer rates increase by $3.20 to $15.20 per month starting Jan. 1. Under the revised ordinance, which the council will consider Tuesday night after a public hearing, the sewer rate increase will remain the same.
The original rate increases were opposed by a group of Hayden residents and by council member Dallas Robinson, who said the town instead should cut from its own budget.
“We’ve been elected because people believe in our creativity, and I think there are other places we can get this money,” Robinson said at the Dec. 1 meeting that brought 15 people to Town Hall. “Increasing these rates is the easy way out.”
Six Hayden residents also took to the podium to criticize the proposed rate increases, saying they would be hard for some to afford.
Because of that opposition, the Town Council met Dec. 4 for an additional budget workshop to discuss how they could shrink the rate increases.
Hayden’s water and sewer operations currently require subsidies from the town’s general fund to operate and Town Manager David Torgler said the proposed rate increases would have allowed the enterprise fund to sustain itself financially, giving the public works department a chance to spend more on needed capital projects such as street repairs. The proposed rate increases are the second phase of a two-phase rate increase the town approved in 2010 to eliminate the budget shortfalls from the operation of the utilities.
Hayden last year increased its water rates 40 percent from $19 to $26.60 and its sewer rates nearly 100 percent from $6.06 to $12 to start lowering those shortfalls.
Haskins said if the lower rate increases are approved Tuesday night, the enterprise fund would not be self-sustaining, a goal he said the town still must work to achieve.
“The majority of the council still thinks we need to get those enterprise funds to pay for themselves,” he said, adding that the subsidies the utilities require from the general fund to operate have caused the town to pass on capital projects that Haskins and Torgler said could become more costly to Hayden’s budget in the future.
Haskins said the smaller proposed water rate still would allow the town to next year spend about $208,000 on additional capital projects that include street and road maintenance, and the increased sewer rates will generate revenue toward a $550,000 state-mandated project that will redirect the town’s sewer treatment plant outfall pipe from Dry Creek to the Yampa River.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com