Thornton mulls spreading out water rate increase

Katie Parkins
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 7/2/18

A planned six percent rate hike for Thornton water customers may get spread out over two years, according to a plan being considered by city councilors. The council has heard a proposal to increase …

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Thornton mulls spreading out water rate increase

Posted

A planned six percent rate hike for Thornton water customers may get spread out over two years, according to a plan being considered by city councilors.

The council has heard a proposal to increase the water rate three percent in 2019 and three percent again in 2020. This comes after the 13 percent rate increase in 2015, 2016 and 2017 to fund the new treatment plant and a break from rate increases in 2018.

When city staff had created a financial plan in 2015 to afford replacing the water treatment plant, they had planned to increase the water rate six percent in 2019.

“We feel like it’s easier for a customer to absorb three percent within the household budget,” said Maria Ostrom, finance director for the City of Thornton. “We could see based on 2015, 2016 and 2017, we don’t have to push through a six percent increase in 2019.”

Emily Hunt, the city’s water resource manager, said the three percent increases would be to keep up with inflation and the cost of doing business.

Additionally, the proposal will finalize the decision to charge parks and golf courses for the amount of “raw water” used to water grass and other landscaping, separate from the treated water used for drinking and other purposes.

In 2017, city staff conducted a formal study of Thornton’s raw water rates.

They found Thorncreek Golf Course, for example, was paying $1.10 per 1,000 gallons of water, whether the golf course used it all or not. According to Ostrom, they had a minimum requirement to pay for, but they never used the minimum. From the results of the study, city staff decided to charge the golf course $2.12 per 1,000 gallons instead for the amount of water they do use.

“They’re paying more per 1,000 gallons, but now they’re only paying for what they’re using,” said Ostrom.

City staff also studied the amount of water Thornton residents have been using to water their own grass and landscaping. Currently, residents are allowed to use 20,000 gallons of water outside their houses. But city staff found there can be more efficient use of city water, she said. Residents with the smallest lot sizes will be allowed to use 16,000 gallons of water outside. Rates will be more individualized based on the lot size, according to Ostrom.

“We’re just asking people to please be responsible. This is a precious resource and to please pay attention to it,” Ostrom said.

Hunt will work with residents to give tips and pointers about managing water use or planting drought-tolerant landscaping. The city currently offers rebates for those, Ostrom said.

City Council expects the changes to residents’ allotment for outdoor water use to be fully implemented by January 1, 2019.

The changes to water guidelines will not affect the city’s overall revenue for 2018 but will increase total revenue in 2019 if the council adopts the proposed rate increase.

The city council’s first reading of the ordinance that proposes these changes is scheduled for July 24.

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