Water rate increase on the horizon
An increase in water rates will go before the Carson City Board of Supervisors for a vote next spring.
Carson City Development Services Director Andy Burnham recommended a 5- to 14- percent hike in water rates at Thursday’s city board meeting, and several supervisors indicated a rate increase is necessary.
Burnham said Friday that while a minimum 5 percent hike in rates is crucial for funding water infrastructure improvements and new wells, the city may be able to keep the increase below 14 percent.
“We have a request in Congress right now and if that came through that would offset that 14 percent,” Burnham said. “I don’t think it would be any higher. Staff will recommend a 5 percent increase as a minimum. Fourteen is a worst-case scenario.”
Rates will remain the same until supervisors hold a series of budget hearings early next spring, said Burnham, when his recommendation will go in front of the board.
Burnham said the city may need as much as $25 million to keep the water system running smoothly.
Supervisor Pete Livermore said he would like to pool area resources with the formation of a regional water board, including representatives from Carson City, Lyon, Douglas, Churchill and Alpine counties.
But in the meantime, he said, the city needs to raise rates.
“I don’t see how I could vote against a 5 percent increase,” Livermore said Friday, “We want to keep up with development costs.”
Supervisor Shelly Aldean said Friday a rate increase is inevitable and residents should do their part to conserve.
“There’s more consumption than growth. It has nothing to do with growth. People are not conserving and wells are running dry.”
She said a rate hike may be a deterrent to water overuse and that application for federal grants may soften the blow to rate-payers.
In a mayoral candidate interview last month, Mayor Ray Masayko said “raising rates makes sure a utility is solvent.”
“We have 10 percent of the customers using 40 percent of the water,” he said. “People want to use water. More power to them. It’s just going to cost more and they’ll have to pay.”
Friday, he said city staff “would have to make their case” before he would approve any rate hike.
“I am probably prepared for different rates for higher water users,” he said. “They are the ones creating an additional demand.”
He also sad he would probably support different rates for summer and winter. City Manager Linda Ritter said city staff will have a better idea of exact rates to propose to supervisors after they finish a capital improvement plan within the next several months.
Contact reporter Robyn Moormeister at email@example.com or 881-1217.
• City engineers say the water table decreases due to more water consumption, construction of new wells and refurbishment of existing wells in Eagle, Carson and Dayton valleys is necessary to maintain the city’s water supply.
• Stringent state rules on water arsenic levels may require some wells to be shut down, and even more wells built elsewhere.
• The city may need as much as $25 million to keep the water system vital, and that means a possible 14 percent increase.
• Carson City Development Services Director Andy Burnham said staff is looking into securing federal funding to supplement water rate hikes, but a five percent increase in rates is almost certain, as it was outlined in the city’s rate model two years ago.
• The average summer residential water bill in Carson City is $29.
• With a 5 percent increase, that bill will rise to $30.45 next summer.
• In five years, that same bill will rise to $36.25.
• With a 14 percent annual increase, the average resident will have to pay an extra $4 the first year it is in place, and another $4 each following year.