Thornton poised to increase water, sewer rates

Luke Zarzecki
lzarzecki@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 9/26/22

Thornton is poised to approve a 4% increase on water rates and a 13% increase on sewer rates. The item was discussed at the Thornton Sept. 20 planning session. 

Finance Director Kim Newhart …

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Thornton poised to increase water, sewer rates

Posted

Thornton is poised to approve a 4% increase in water rates and a 13% increase in sewer rates. The item was discussed at the Thornton Sept. 20 planning session. 

Finance Director Kim Newhart said the cost of water operations have increased by 18% over 2022 due to inflation and the new EPA-issued health advisory regarding PFAS would cost $80 million in improvements to the system. 

“This 4% was needed before any PFAS regulations have been talked about or before any inflation,” said Newhart. 

The money from the utility bills goes to providing drinking water as well as capital improvements to upkeep the infrastructure and customer service. 

Rates are calculated through a fixed service charge and a tiered water volume rate.

All customers reside in Tier 1, which is the average winter consumption. Customers will also fall into Tier 2, which is the monthly outdoor allowance and is priced per 1,000 gallons. 

If customers use more than Tier 2’s allotment, they fall into Tier 3 or Tier 4. Based n this summer's usage, 13% of customers went into Tier 3 for August and less than 1% went into Tier 4.  

Increases would be from $8.00 to $8.32 for the fixed service charge. 

Tiers 1 and 2 were the same before and remain the same. Both would go from $5.66 to $5.89 under the new proposal. Tier 3 goes from $8.49 to $8.83 and Tier 4 from $16.98 to $17.66. 

For the average winter bill, costs will increase about $1.30 and for the average summer bill, costs will go up about $2.58. 

Thornton’s average monthly bill will go from $65 to $67. That puts the city a little lower than Westminster but higher than Northglenn, which is $61. 

“All I ask is that we stay lower than Westminster,” said Mayor Jan Kulmann. 

For those using about 42,000 gallons of water in the summer, costs will go up about $10. 

For sewer rates, the increase proposal is 13% compared to 2022 rates. The increase will match inflation until 2027, as long as additional rate increases occur that match inflation.  

For sewer rates, Thornton is among the lowest compared to neighboring cities, at $23 on average. Westminster is about $34 and Northglenn is about $26. 

Thornton also provides a utility assistance program, which includes all utilities. Customers whose household income does not exceed 60% of the state median income or those who qualify for other assistance programs can use the program. The city pays for the assistance program through late fees. 

City Councilor Julia Marvin asked whether the staff thinks residents may be frustrated since the city increased rates last year. 

“People understand that costs increase to operate a system like this,” said City spokesperson Todd Barnes. 

City Councilor Kathy Henson said with rate increases, the city needs to be walking the walk by being mindful of conservation.

“We need to be mindful about conservation so people don’t have the idea that their rates are increased to water a sidewalk in the park,” she said. 

She said she has received angry calls about watering methods in the park.

Thornton already has plans in place to reduce the amount they are irrigating parks. In fact, the program Naturally Thornton will be converting 300 acres of the city’s park’s Kentucky Blue Grass to native grasses and plants in the next 10-12 years to reduce water usage. So far, 38 acres have been completed, with the city able to convert 25 acres per year, the project should be completed by 2034. 

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