By Bella Butler EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – During a special meeting on June 1, the Big Sky County Water and Sewer board unanimously passed an ordinance approving a rate increase for both water and sewer service in Big Sky.
The rate increase will take effect July 1. All water and sewer user charges will increase by 5 percent, including the base rate as well as all tiers of variable use rates. The ordinance was approved upon a second reading following the first reading that occurred during a May 18 meeting.
Ron Edwards, executive director of the district, said the increase is in line with what the district’s financial consultants came up with.
“As we continue to grow, the costs of operations get more expensive,” Edwards said in an interview following the meeting. “We’re moving more water around so we’re paying a lot of power to do that.” Edwards said that the trend is the same on the treatment end of things: greater usage requires more chemicals, power and other resources.
He added that staffing is another cost the increased rates will help cover. On May 18, the board approved a new budget which includes capacity for three new employees, including two new sewer operators for the full year and a new administrative employee budgeted for half the year.
Edwards said that the district has been operating at a deficit for “quite a while,” and the rate increase will help reduce that deficit.
The board is working on transitioning from using ordinances to institute such rate changes to using resolutions, which according to Edwards will streamline the process.