Durango residents are likely to get a larger utility bill next year so that the city of Durango can pay for sewer projects and sustainability efforts.
The average monthly utility bill is expected to increase from $108.17 in 2017 to $113.87 to 2018, according to city documents.
The higher bills will likely be driven by a 3 percent increase in sewer rates and an 8.5 percent increase to trash and recycle rates.
During a study session Tuesday, city councilors informally agreed to a higher trash and recycling rate than they previously discussed. The council will vote on utility rate increases when it approves the 2018 budget in December.
In September, councilors talked about increasing trash and recycling rates by 6 percent. But because the council decided not to increase water rates by 3 percent, city staff members proposed an additional 2.5 percent increase to trash and recycling rates to help pay for sustainability efforts. The increase is expected to raise $50,000.
The proposed utility increase is 78 cents less than it would have been if the water rate increases were approved, according to city documents.
City Manager Ron LeBlanc said a rate study done by consultants in 2014 recommended the city raise sewer rates regularly to keep up with inflation.
In addition to higher utility bills, residents will notice on their bills a new line item to reflect sustainability charges.
“It’s more transparent,” Councilor Melissa Youssef said Tuesday.
In 2009, the city stopped funding sustainability projects through general sales tax collections and started to fund those programs through the trash and recycling fees, LeBlanc said. In recent years, sustainability projects included evaluating city lighting compliance with its dark sky ordinance and organizing the household hazardous waste event.
In 2018, the city plans to spend some money designated for sustainability efforts to evaluate the feasibility of installing solar panels on the water-treatment plant and to conduct a countywide greenhouse gas-emissions inventory comparable to one it did in 2009. The inventory will track emissions from all sources, including cars, buildings and gas wells, LeBlanc said.
“There’s real importance and validity to having a third-party assessment,” Mayor Dick White said.
White described the inventory as a prerequisite for assessing the impact of any climate-focused policy initiatives.
In October, the city committed to address climate issues by joining the Compact of Colorado Communities. The compact is aimed at enhancing the ability of local governments to address climate change and encourage economic development through clean-energy programs.
The city has a long list of possible projects that could be funded with the designated sustainability money in future years, including supporting the implementation of an organic waste collection program, retrofitting facilities with low-flow fixtures and funding a micro hydroplant, which could be a source of renewable energy.
email@example.comThis story has been updated to correct the headline. The combined rate increase, if approved, will be 5.26 percent.