Columbia Utility Rates to Increase

Aug 7, 2017

Credit KBIA

Utility rates across Columbia will be slightly increased heading into the new fiscal year.

An increase in all five utilities' monthly costs will combine to increase Columbia residents' utility bills by about $3.83 for fiscal year 2018 starting in October, said Jim Windsor, assistant director of Columbia Utilities. The dollar figure is an average.

Sewer rates are the highest increase in monthly payments, totaling about $1.39 per month. Part of that is to cover a bond from 2013, Windsor said.

Water, the next highest increase, will have a monthly rate increase of about $0.90. Solid waste rates will increase by about $0.62, and electric rates by about $0.59.

Storm water rates, which are technically a tax, will increase by about $0.33, a raise that was approved by voters in 2015, Windsor said.

These bumps in utility rates will vary depending on the size of a house, but the numbers given describe the most typical house, Windsor said.

"Every customer is going to be a little bit different, but that's a reasonable estimate of what it's going to be," he said.

Windsor said that projections have determined that additional increases will come in the next few years, but future annual evaluations will determine the actual numbers in the coming years.

"Our goal is to keep the impact of all utilities under $5 for the average customer," he said.

In August 2018, the water utility expects to put a bond issue before voters, but it is unclear how much money the utility will ask for and what projects it will go toward.

"We have a lot of work to do on that to finalize what the proposal will be," Windsor said.

He also said one reason for the increase in utility rates is so that Columbia Water and Light can maintain its cash reserve, which is needed in case of what Windsor described as "unusual situations," meaning weather-related incidents or utility service failure.

Each utility has their own cash reserve. Another benefit to maintaining a cash reserve, Windsor said, is a reserve surplus helps keep utility rates down.

The sewer utility has an existing bond that part of its increases is to pay for. Solid waste also has one related to expanding the landfill.

Another aspect considered for the yearly evaluation is how much revenue is invested back into the infrastructure of the utility to help repair or replace things such utility vehicles or broken water mains, Windsor said.

"We have to have quite a bit of money to reinvest" in the utility, he said.

Supervising editor is Sky Chadde.