Water, sewer, trash and recycling rates will likely increase next year, but the average city utility bill won’t be as high as expected.
The average residential utility bill is expected to be about $109 per month next year, up from about $99 per month this year, according to city estimates.
The city had anticipated average bills to be $118 per month in 2017.
But a low-interest loan for $62 million for a sewage-treatment remodel will help temper rate increases, City Manager Ron LeBlanc told the Durango City Council Tuesday.
An interest rate of only about 1.6 percent will also free more money for other sewer plant-related projects, LeBlanc said.
The city had expected to increase sewer rates by 25 percent next year, but instead an 11 percent increase is proposed.
This would increase average sewer rates from about $44 per month to about $49, according to city documents.
Water rates are also expected to increase by 11 percent from about $36 to about $40 per month.
As a result of lower sewer rates, councilors gave an early nod to a 9 percent one-time increase to trash and recycling rates.
“It’s a very modest increase,” Mayor Christina Rinderle said.
Previously, some councilors had favored a more phased approach to trash and recycling rate increases.
In addition to higher trash and recycling rates, the billing will be reallocated, so the recycling cost is more clearly reflected.
Average recycling bills are expected to increase from $3.09 per month to $7.31 per month. While the cost of a 60-gallon trash can will decline from $13.39 to $11.54, according to city documents.
“The bill is more accurate,” Councilor Keith Brant said.
The changes are being considered as part of the 2017 budget, and they have not yet been approved.
Possible increases in trash and recycling rates will help pay for more bear-proof trash cans and a new recycling center. The city is likely to outgrow the Durango Tech Center recycling facility as population grows. One estimate of a new center projects a cost $1.4 million, but it does not include the price of land acquisition.
A land purchase would likely be the first step, LeBlanc said. Construction of a center is tentatively scheduled for 2022.
Rate increases could help the city save for a new center without having to go into debt to pay for it.
Bear-proof trash cans are expected to cost $200,000 per year from 2019 to 2021. While residents have to request these cans, and they do pay for them over time as part of their bill, the city needs money up-front to purchase them, City Operations Director Levi Lloyd said.
“We live with wildlife, and we really need to provide cans to discourage wildlife (scavaging),” Lloyd said.