Gillette residents can expect to pay 15% more for wastewater this coming fiscal year, with other utility rate spikes possible in the coming years, city officials said Tuesday.
Rates for wastewater are expected to increase every year for the foreseeable future, according to Michelle Henderson, director of finance for the City of Gillette, who presented an annual city financial update to the Gillette City Council Feb. 9.
The average Gillette resident currently pays $24.47 per month for wastewater. With the proposed rate increases, that amount will rise to $49.09 per month by fiscal year 2030, according to Henderson.
Adjusting the wastewater rates in this manner will help the city offset the cost of cash flowing projects from the wastewater fund that were originally allocated under the Optional One Percent sales tax but have since been removed, she said.
Additionally, the rate increases will generate revenue that the city can use to pay down loans secured for wastewater infrastructure projects as well as any fees or interest accrued on those loans, according to Henderson.
Wastewater will be the only utility rate to increase in the coming fiscal year, Henderson continued, but other rate increases could be on their way.
The only exception will be solid waste, which is performing well according to City of Gillette Utilities Director Mike Cole.
Determining how much of an increase is needed looking forward, however, is tricky business with many unknowns based on a plethora of assumptions.
“You can’t adjust rates to make an immediate impact, which is why we’re looking ahead four, maybe five years,” Henderson said. “We’re trying to set those rates accordingly for the next five years so we’re not always reactionary.”
At least one side of the city water fund will need to see a rate increase to offset operational costs and additional expenses accrued through inflationary means and asset depreciation, Henderson noted.
In fiscal year 2023, the city could be increasing their transmission water rates by 10% that year and an additional 10 percent every year after. This means the average Gillette resident paying $42.62 per month for water will see their bills increase to $62.40 by fiscal year 2025, according to Henderson.
Rate increases within the city’s power fund depends on two scenarios, the first being the city securing an $8.3 million loan to cover the costs of capital infrastructure improvements necessary to provide service to Antelope Valley and Crestview Estates.
In this scenario, Henderson said, the city would also continue a $500,000 annual cash influx from the Optional One Percent to total $3 million by fiscal year 2026.
In scenario two, the city would not secure a loan for infrastructure projects which means, even with the Optional One Percent, the city’s power fund would fall below the bottom line by 2023, Henderson noted.
“Under this scenario we would possibly have to build in a rate increase to get back up to that target balance,” she said, adding that there is much uncertainty when dealing with a future power fund.
Right now, the city has a couple of years before a final decision on whether to fund the capital projects itself or to pursue a loan if needed.