By Steve Baska
Median monthly water bills will rise 5.5 percent in January for customers of the Castle Pines North Metropolitan District (CPNMD). The board determined the rate increase was needed to pay for cost of service increases, including electricity, system repairs and maintenance, and voted in the increase on November 18.
After two years of no rate increases in 2011 and 2012, rates were last increased by 5.2 percent in 2013 after a recommendation by the engineering firm MWH Global, a consultant to the district which also recommended the increase for 2014.
Ken Smith, a spokesman for the district said, “Customers may see variances in the increases in their monthly bills based on the volume of water used. People in tier 1 will likely see a lower increase than the median 5.5 percent, and those in tiers 3 and 4 may see an increase higher than 5.5 percent.”
The median increase includes the following parts: the median monthly water bill will rise by $2.76, which is 4.7 percent; the median monthly wastewater bill will rise by $1.33, or 4.4 percent; and the median monthly storm water bill will rise by $1, or 33.3 percent. The total of 5.5 percent, or $5.07, takes the median bill from $92.20 to $97.27.
The storm water increase of 33 percent is high because recent local flooding in the district caused damage to storm water infrastructures that need to be repaired, the consultant company determined. With regard to the overall bills, the company said that 71 percent of the proposed combined monthly residential bills will likely reflect an increase of $6 or less in 2014.
According to Smith, the median is a better indicator of most water bill impacts than the average because the median throws out the very highest and lowest bills of users in its calculations, which the average does not.
“MWH Global projects median instead of average rate increases because the median conveys a more accurate and truthful representation of the 2014 rate adjustment that most residential customers can reasonably expect,” Smith said. “Median measures tend to accurately minimize the influence on projected rate adjustments of the extremes at both ends of the water-use spectrum.
By contrast, the average tends to exaggerate the influence on projected rate adjustments of ultra high volume and ultra low volume water users. For residential customers who use water in volumes that typically place them in tier 4 and for those who, due to extended work-related or vacation-related absences, use little or no water, applying the average as a measure would unfairly skew MWH Global’s rate-adjustment projections.”
Smith also stressed that, along with the increase, the district is paying down the “legacy debt” inherited from a bankruptcy many years ago. The district will be saving $4 million a year starting in 2017, when a 22 mill levy assessment on all customers’ properties will end.