Board approves new budget
By Bella Butler MANAGING EDITOR
BIG SKY — The Big Sky County Water and Sewer board voted Tuesday to increase water and sewer rates by 5 percent and also approved a new budget for the district.
Both changes will go into effect at the start of the board’s 2023 fiscal year on July 1. Rate increases apply to water and sewer user charges and do not affect hookup fees, according to the district’s general manager Ron Edwards.
“The increase in rates is to account for the increasing cost in providing water and sewer services,” said Peter Manka, the board’s newly elected vice president and a member of its budget subcommittee.
Most changes in the district’s budgeted expenses, which total approximately $4.8 million, address personnel costs, including increases to insurance coverage and salaries as well as two new salaries for additional water and sewer operators.
As part of ongoing employee succession planning the board has been engaged in to plan for Edwards’ future retirement, the board also approved $200,000 in the budget for Edwards’ replacement. Part of that total will fund the new hire’s salary and part will pay for a consultant to help hire Edwards’ replacement as well as other new district staff.
The district’s attorney’s fees and other associated legal fees were budgeted at $210,000, down from $605,000 after the district won a civil case this year that Cottonwood Environmental Law Center Montana Rivers and Gallatin Wildlife Association filed against it in 2020. According to the district’s financial officer, Terry Smith, the legal budget this year was set at the advice of the district’s attorneys to cover any costs associated with a potential appeal.