Paonia water, sewer and trash customers will have another opportunity to comment on potential rate increases at the Nov. 12 board meeting.
At a special meeting held Nov. 4, trustees considered increasing costs to benefit all three enterprise funds, but decided to continue discussion to Nov. 12 to consider comments made during the evening and to allow for more public comment.
The draft 2020 budget includes a potential $66,335 increase in water fund revenue, a $55,840 increase in sewer fund revenues, and a $25,800 increase in trash fund revenue based on adoption of the new rates and charges.
The monthly in-town wastewater/sewer rates would increase $5 to $39, and from $53 to $58 per month for out-of-town customers. Monthly tap standby fees would increase from $25 to $30.
In-town garbage collection fees would increase $2, to $19 per month for single 33-gallon containers, to $22 for two or three containers, and to $29 for four or five containers. A $10 fee would be charged for each additional container above the customer’s categorized limit.
Weekly dumpster fees would increase to $37 per month for a two-cubic-yard dumpster, and $47 per month for a three-cubic-yard dumpster.
If all three rate increases are approved, customers would see their monthly bill increase an average of $9.45, as reflected in the draft budget, said town finance officer Cindy Jones.
Most of the discussion focused on water rate increases, which would affect both in- and out-of-town users.
The current five-tier, per-gallon rate structure would change to a 12-tier system, said interim town administrator Corinne Ferguson. The structure could, depending on consumption, lower overall monthly costs to smaller users, while larger consumers would see increases depending on monthly usage. Ferguson said the structure is designed to “provide relief to lower users, while incentivizing conservation by bigger users.
The base rate increase, said Jones, funds the infrastructure, which the town budgets for, while the tier system pays for production of potable water, which is not accounted for in the budget.
Tiers are modified to avoid a disproportionate increase in town commercial user fees, said Ferguson. “Historically, the commercial users take the largest hit on rate changes, and this restructuring takes that into account as well.”
The 27 private water companies serviced by the town water system will be charged under the tier rate times the number of customers they service, and not according to total use measured on the master meter, said Ferguson.
To lower or avoid all together an increase in wastewater charges, said Mayor Charles Stewart, the board could reconsider a personnel decision to add to the public works staff as proposed in the draft 2020 budget. The other possibility is to reduce the reserves, which would limit the town’s ability to fund future capital improvements.
Jones reminded trustees that a collapsed sewer line cost the town more than $200,000 five years ago. “That could happen again,” she said.
Add all the increases up, and “We’re talking about a substantial increase here,” said trustee Bill Bear in urging the board to look closely at the proposals.
To “reduce the shock across the board,” Stewart recommended looking closely at sewer and trash fees. The draft 2020 budget estimates an ending trash fund reserve of $216,000; with the rate hike that would increase by $25,800. “While it will decrease the projected reserve balance, “I’m open to any comments or any contrary views.”
One consideration, said Ferguson, is the annual free spring clean that allows residents to get rid of just about anything they don’t want. One year the cleanup cost more in landfill tipping fees in a week than they spend in a month. The town also can’t predict what fuel, tire and other related costs will do in the future.
There would also be a “negative impact if that service is not offered,” said Ferguson.
The board will have to take action at the Nov. 12 meeting. The board will also take public comment on the draft 2020 budget at the meeting during the annual budget hearing.
The draft budget and proposed rate increases are available for review at town hall, and online at townof