Water rates continue to rise in Ranch

Groundwater usage up, as are wages, benefit costs

Posted

For the second straight year, Centennial Water and Sanitation District customers will see a rate increase on their bills.

Following a 2 percent spike in 2012, rates will go up another 3.8 percent in 2013, climbing from $2.65 to $2.75 per 1,000 gallons for up to 100 percent of the allotted budget per user in Highlands Ranch.

Wastewater per 1,000 gallons over 3,000 will also go up 10 cents beginning Jan. 1, from $2.55 to $2.65, and there will be a 30-cent increase on the bimonthly minimum wastewater fee from $20.65 to $20.95. Bimonthly water service availability fees will remain at $25 for the coming year.

According to Bruce Lesback, director of finance and administration with the district, the electrical costs associated with an increased use of groundwater, increase in wages and rising costs of benefits are all behind the rate increases.

“The rates are based on our costs to operate,” he said. “As long as we are not growing significantly with the number of customers and volume of water, you are going to have rate increases every year, there is just no way around it. … It’s always been our philosophy to minimize any increases. We look at every type of alternative we can to reduce expenditures, but expenditures are what they are in the utility business.”

To offset some of the electrical costs caused by the increase in groundwater usage, the district is using $500,000 from its financial assurance fund to keep customers from having to foot the entire bill. The financial assurance fund is largely generated by overage fees from those who have gone over their water budget.

“The significant increase in groundwater is not normal,” Lesback said, “but we’re not in this type of weather pattern on a normal basis. So instead of passing this entire increase in electrical off, we are only passing part of it off.”

A public hearing was held Nov. 26 on the proposed budget and rate changes and no public comments or suggested changes were recommended to the budget at the hearing. The board of directors unanimously approved the 2013 budget at its regular monthly meeting on Dec. 17.