Water, sewer rates may rise

Carson City water and sewer rates would increase an average of 7.4 percent at a single-family home under plans given preliminary approval Thursday.

The Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to instruct staffers and consultants to draft ordinance changes for consideration later this summer that would raise water-system revenues 6.5 percent annually and sewer revenues 15 percent annually over five years. But rates will vary for single-family residents, multi-family housing, and commercial and other users.

Supervisor Jim Shirk cast the dissenting vote, praising the preliminary work but saying he wanted some other type of formula for allocating rate-hike effects. The motion came from Supervisor John McKenna and was couched in terms of the revenue-raising percentages overall, which he called costly but the best way to reduce effects on future generations.

“I agree with John,” said Mayor Robert Crowell. “Let’s take the fastest route.”

The board also voted without dissent to instruct city staff to study ways that funded depreciation revenues can remain dedicated for that purpose in the future when new boards take office.

The mayor and supervisors this year decried previous board actions that removed depreciation financing from the rate structure, which left the city short of funds as maintenance piled up for the water- and sewer-treatment plant systems. The sewage-treatment plant particularly needs an upgrade, and higher fees help finance bonding authority.

FCS Group, a consultant, along with Public Works staffers will craft the ordinance changes based on the preliminary decision Thursday. Action is expected in two months on final approval.

Karyn Johnson, a principal with FCS based in Redmond, Wash., made a presentation before the vote. She gave multiple examples of how rates would affect various users under two scenarios covering five or 10 years. The five-year route selected would have these effects in the first year for single-family residences:

• For the entire class, water rates in the initial year would go up 9.5 percent and sewer rates 11.8 percent, and the combined average would be the 10.4 percent previously cited.

• For an average residential user, identified by Johnson as someone using 12,000 gallons per month, water rates would go up 11.3 percent and sewer rates 2.3 percent for a combined average of 7.4 percent. In such a case, though Johnson stressed bills may vary, projections are the combined bill would increase $4.57 monthly from the current $61.56.

Johnson and Public Works Director Andy Burnham pointed out that while residential users will face higher water rates and multi-family units get a break in that category, the reverse is true under the plan regarding sewer rates; multifamily dwellers would pay more and single-family residences would feel a lighter impact.

The board took no action on connection fees, agreeing by consensus that discussion those fees should remain at current low levels and help lure manufacturing concerns or other businesses as the economy improves.


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