From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
The Pueblo Board of Water Works is looking at a 3 percent rate increase for next year, after absorbing a loss of about $800,000 in revenues this year.
“We’re going to be about $800,000 short in water sales this year, but it shouldn’t affect the budget because we’ve made it up in other areas,” said Seth Clayton, director of administrative services.
Board member Tom Autobee was concerned that revenues were off from projections, looking at revenue reports for the first nine months of the year.
Clayton explained that revenues were at 75 percent at that time, but have been increasing because of more outdoor watering during a warm, dry fall. He expects a shortfall of about 350 million gallons of usage, out of an estimated 8.2 billiongallon projection.
Revenues have picked up in several other areas, including raw water leases, main assessments and the plant water investment fee. Combined, they produced more than $1 million in revenues than was expected.
The water board will have a workshop on its 2016 budget on Nov. 10, and could have some additional pieces to fit together. A public hearing and adoption is scheduled for Nov. 17.
On Tuesday, the board heard a presentation from Sparq Natural Gas on the potential long-term savings of converting vehicles to compressed natural gas. The state Department of Local Affairs has grant money available to ease front-end costs.
The board also reviewed its policy on charging customers for water at a Downtown filling station. New software will streamline the billing process with a “pay at the pump” approach, Clayton said.
And it looked at the $1 per month fee that serves as an insurance policy for service line replacement and repairs, which began appearing on customers’ bills in September.
Since May, Pueblo Water has repaired 37 lines at an average cost of $3,500 per incident, said Matt Trujillo, director of operations.
At that rate, there would be 87 cases per year, within the range of being covered by the $34,000 the fee generates each month. The board agreed to wait for a year of operation to determine how well the program is working.
Overall, the budget for next year holds few surprises.
Revenues are projected to be about $33.9 million. Pueblo Water employs 137 people with about $9 million in salaries and $5.5 million in related personnel costs.
Other large expenditures include $3.6 million for utilities, primarily electricity; $1.9 million for outside services; $1.4 million for main expansion and improvement projects; and $1 million for the continuing automated meter program.