Westminster slates meetings to pitch water, sewer rate increase

Scott Taylor
staylor@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 2/19/20

Residents will get two opportunities to weigh in on a proposed increase to Westminster water and sewer residential rates. Public Works Director Max Kirschbaum said staff is proposing a 6% increase in …

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Westminster slates meetings to pitch water, sewer rate increase

Posted

Residents will get two opportunities to weigh in on a proposed increase to Westminster water and sewer residential rates.

Public Works Director Max Kirschbaum said staff is proposing a 6% increase in water and sewer rates for 2021 and 2022.

For an average residential water customer — using roughly 9,300 gallons per month — that would increase water rates by about $3.31 month, from $50.66 per month under the current rates to $53.96 per month in 2021.

Sewer rates would increase from about $47.04 per month to $50.04 in 2021, under the 6% proposal.

The city has scheduled two meetings to present the plans and get public feedback. The first is set for 6 p.m. Feb. 26 at the City Park Recreation Center, 10455 Sheridan Blvd. The second is scheduled for 6 p.m. March 18 at the MAC, 3295 W. 72nd Ave.

“We are looking forward to having some good two-way conversations with our customers,” Kirschbaum said.

The City Council will host public hearings on the proposed increase later this summer.

“Our plan is to be the end of April and early May to have two public readings at the City Council meetings,” Kirschbaum said. “Once that’s done, it would be folded into their final budget considerations next September and October.”

Kirschbaum said the increase is needed to gather enough revenue to keep up with city maintenance and capital work.

“We plan on carrying out the same capital program in our budget,” he said. “But if we don’t raise rates, to carry forward we need a large spike later on to account for having no increase in the beginning. And we don’t see that being desirable for anyone.”

Much of Westminster’s water and sewer infrastructure close to 50 years old and needs to be replaced.

Over the last ten years, the city averaged about $30 million per year in water and sewer construction projects. Based on comprehensive engineering studies, staff recommend gradually increasing the city’s investment to an average of $60 to $80 million a year over the next ten years.

That would cover projects including $16 million to replace deteriorating drinking water storage tanks, $11 million to replace an aging water main on Lowell Boulevard and $4.6 million to meet new environmental regulations.

Westminster uses it’s own calculation to determine how potential budgets for future projects. That calculation, called a Utility Condition rating Index, considers how much repairing or replacing the city’s $4 billion water and sewer infrastructure will cost, rather than just budgeting for repairs based on inflation.

“There would be no changes in the structure of tiers,” Kirschbaum said. “We are carrying forward very similarly. What the options include is an expression of if we alter our revenue, keeping it the same or increase, and what happens beyond the first two years.”

Kirschbaum said Westminster is considering four scenarios, ranging from no water rate increase and 5% sewer rate increase in 2021 and 2022 to 10 percent water rate increase and a 12 percent sewer rate increase in 2021 and 2022.

The favorite is the middle option that raises water rates 6% in 2021 and 2022.

“The important point for the public is that we are proposing a capital investment program that stays the same in each option,” he said. “So if there is no increase in the first two years, there is a spike that has to follow it. So it follows suit, if you increase by 3%, that spike is less dramatic and the 6% program would be very stable through the next several years.”

The highest increase of a 10% in the next two years would step down drastically in the outlying years.

Kirschbaum said the 6% would adequately take care of the city’s revenue needs.

“We believe we can execute a minimally responsible capital improvement program with a 6% rate that stays pretty stable over the next several years that follow.”

Westminster’s 2020 water residential water rates increased roughly 10 percent per 1,000 gallons with the new year while commercial rates increased between 6 and 10 percent depending on how much is used.

Six percent solution

Currently, Westminster charges its lowest rate for residential customers that use less than 6,000 gallons per month. That rate increased from $3.57 per 1,000 gallons in 2019 to $3.96 in 2020. Under the staff plan, that would increase to $4.22 in 2021 and $4.49 in 2022.

Residential customers that use between 6,001 and 20,000 gallons per month now pay $8.15 per 1,000 gallons — up from $7.35 in 2019. That would rise to $8.68 in 2021 and $9.24 in 2022.

Customers that use more than 20,000 gallons per month pay the most, $12.88 per 1,000 gallons. That’s a $1.26 increase from the 2019 rate of $11.26 per 1,000 gallons. That would increase to $13.72 in 2021 and $14.60 in 2022.

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