Revamping rates

Water and sewer board seeks to encourage water conservation
“It’s really only people way outside of the bounds who will be paying more,” board member Peter Manka said.

Big Sky County Water and Sewer District (BSCWSD) board found themselves in a continuous onslaught of numbers at the July 16 board meeting. Number crunching was the name of the game as they were walked through the current water and sewer rates and a recent rate design study conducted by engineering firm AE2S. AE2S Financial Analyst Ryan Graf was present representing the firm and Project Manager Miranda Kleven participated via conference call. 

“The whole progression of this –and it’s painful I realize this – but we are dragging you into the mud to see what this looks like, so you have some ownership of it,” Edwards said to board members. 

The study performed by AE2S was designed to look at the structure of the rates. 

“To give us framework as we look at long-term planning, how customers will be charged and how the greater community will be served in addition to water conservation,” Graf explained. 

BSCWSD General Manager Ron Edwards and the board waded through options presented by AE2S with one option including a flat rate for water and sewer, but were in favor of alternative 4, which builds off of the existing rate structure. 

Terry Smith, BSCWSD financial officer stated during later conversation that this goes along with the cost of service study done by AE2S. 

“We are going to try to make slight adjustments to confront the minor inequities that exist today,” he said, calling the upcoming rate design just “one small part of the big picture to address the growth we are facing here in Big Sky.” 

The board liked the inclining rate of Alternative 4. 

Board member Brian Wheeler said the idea is to incentivize water conservation – “turning that sprinkler off.” 

“It’s a push to conserve because the more you use, the more you’re going to pay,” Smith said later. 

The rate tiers for alternative 4 are as follows: 

Tier 1: Essential Use

Tier 2: Responsible Use

Tier 3: Inefficient Use

Tier 4: Irresponsible Use or about 60,000 gallons 

“It’s only going to affect about 20 percent of the customer base,” Smith said during the meeting. 

Board member Peter Manka agreed. 

“It’s really only people way outside of the bounds who will be paying more,” he said.

What the board is looking at now is adding to the current rate structure –an irrigation specific rate, a commercial specific rate as well as a re-use rate structure, Smith explained. 

“Until AE2S comes back with specific proposed rates, the effect on any individual group be it condo, residential or commercial, cannot be determined,” he said. “We are still working with AE2S on working out peculiarities of the Big Sky system and how resort communities allocate fixed costs to each user class.” 

The new rate structure should be selected in the August meeting and there should not be any rate shock, Smith said. 

“Rate payers will be well-informed of the coming rate changes,” he said. BSWSD is hoping the new rates will be effective Oct. 1 or Jan. 1.

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