Water and sewer rates will be going up in 2016 to help pay for the millions in water and sewer projects for the city.
Durango city councilors unanimously approved both the 2016 budget and utility rate increases without discussion Tuesday, after months of deliberation.
Next year, the city’s total budget will decline slightly less than 1 percent from the more than $88.4 million in 2015 to about $87.6 million in 2016, according to city documents.
Funding for operations will be increasing about 4.6 percent from about $65.585 million in 2015 to $68.628 million in 2016.
While spending on construction projects and other capital needs will decline from about $22 million to $19 million.
A $9.1 million taxiway resurfacing project in the 2015 budget contributed to the decline in the total budget for 2016.
Spending on water and sewer projects made up much of the difference in 2016 with about $14 million set aside for operations and construction projects including a new river intake on the Florida River and a backup storage tank at the water-treatment plans.
Spending on the utility infrastructure has been increasing fairly steadily over the last five years, and it is unlikely to slow down as the city starts work on a new $68 million wastewater-treatment plant.
However, thanks to recent investments, Utilities Director Steven Salka said the city’s operating costs should see declines, and the plant is a far healthier system now than when he started in mid-2012 shortly after raw sewage spilled into the Animas River.
“I think we are catching up to where we should have been a long, long time ago,” Salka said.
To help pay for the infrastructure, water and sewer rates have also been on the uptick. In 2012, the average residential sewer rate was $7.82.
After a council vote to approved a 25 percent rate increase Tuesday, the average monthly sewer bill will be going up to about $44 from about $35.
The council also approved a 15 percent water rate increase, which will push average water bills up to about $38.
Next year residents can expect to see total utility bills from the city will be around $100. Sewer rates will be going up about 25 percent again in 2017.
The city will also be investing in a new softball complex and tennis courts at Fort Lewis College that will likely require the $2.6 million in the 2016 budget and more money in 2017.
The construction of a new parks and recreation shop was pushed back a year in favor of pursing a different gymnastics building to replace the Mason Center.
However staff will likely bring the council a proposal to design the parks and recreation shop in 2016, said City Manager Ron LeBlanc.
“The shop currently is inadequate. It doesn’t meet the needs of our staff,” said Cathy Metz, director of parks and recreation.