A five-year plan boosting water rates 6 percent and sewer rates 15 percent, on average, won 3-1 Carson City governing board approval Thursday.
Individual rates will vary depending primarily on use and the category of the user. In addition, the new schedule realigns rates so former subsidies involving the categories, as identified by a rate consultant, will end based on equity and will result in some lower initial utility bills even though most bills will go up. The increase is to meet capital needs.
Nearly $50 million will be necessary, the bulk of it to upgrade the existing wastewater-treatment plant. About $17 million is for water infrastructure improvements. The new rates, which city staffers say will still be lower than in surrounding communities, will provide a revenue stream to underpin bonds and resulting debt service.
Supervisor Jim Shirk cast the dissenting vote and Supervisor John McKenna was absent from the Board of Supervisors meeting for a personal commitment, so the majority was made up of Mayor Robert Crowell and Supervisors Brad Bonkowski and Karen Abowd. The rates are set to rise Oct. 1.
There was no testimony by the public, and Utility Manager David Bruketta said there had been no changes or comments since preliminary approval Sept. 5.
Shirk said later that he questions raising water rates to users on one hand and then using water from regular stores to supplement the effluent water when restrictions set in during late summer.
That problem of effluent water restrictions occurred earlier than usual as drought, drawdown of the Brunswick Reclaimed Water Storage Reservoir and other factors combined to make such rationing come into play Aug. 5. It resulted in golf courses turning brown earlier as well, which in part prompted Bruketta’s presentation.
It followed the water- and sewer-rate-hike decisions, prompting Shirk’s comment as well as discussion of how to provide alternatives in water-short years, yet retain arrangements for enough acres to take the effluent water in surplus years over the longer term. Federal dictates prohibit the effluent or reclaimed water from being allowed to go into the Carson River.
Finance Director Nick Providenti said the new water and sewer rates were keyed to providing the bonding needs and debt-service requirements involved in utility capital project needs and shouldn’t allow for any debt over the projected amounts. He indicated full details await timing and market conditions.
With the water-rate approval, incremental revenues to the water utility fund should be $791,192 in fiscal year 2014, $842,619 in FY 2015, $897,390 in FY 2016, $995,720 in FY 2017 and $1,017,842 in FY 2018. The total is more than $4.5 million.
The new sewer rates should bring in $1,110,668 in FY 2014, $1,277,269 the next fiscal year, $1,468,859 the third, $1,689,188 the fourth and $1,942,566 in FY 2018. That total is nearly $7.5 million.
The board, once again voting 3-1 with Shirk dissenting, also approved a $1 surcharge on stormwater drainage service rates, and it was expected to raise an additional $2000,000 annually for the stormwater utility fund.