By Doug Hare EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – On Oct. 22, the Big Sky Water and Sewer District (BSWSD) Board of Directors met in its Meadow Village office building to discuss the impending updates to rates and rate structures for water and sewer customers.
While the BSWSD initially charged customers at a fluctuating flat fee based on the district’s changing financial needs, board members voted in August to move ahead with recommendations from a 2019 Utility Cost of Service and Financial Plan produced by Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services (AE2S). The study found that user classes generated costs for the district differently within the system and should be adjusted accordingly to eliminate possible revenue imbalances and ensure a balanced budget.
For the first time ever, the board now plans to have different rate structures between residential and commercial entities, as well as charging a separate irrigation price, said Ron Edwards, BSWSD general manager. “It’s about maturing as a community and aligning our prices more closely to our costs with an eye towards future growth and infrastructure needs.”
While rates are set to increase across all tiers, the board intends to adjust tiers with lower thresholds for water upcharges based on usage to encourage conservation, put more onus on commercial users, and to encourage less irrigation in summer months when water becomes increasingly scarce in an arid, alpine setting.
Sewer rate changes
Base sewer rates are set to increase 10 percent across the board, while volumetric rates will increase 5 percent per thousand gallons for residential users and 10 percent for commercials users for the rate hearing.
To shoulder operations without sharp rate increases in the span of a year, the AE2S consultants also recommended yearly rate increases of around 5 percent for residential accounts for the next five years; for commercial accounts, the recommendation included 20 percent increases each of the next two years and 10 percent increases the following three years.
In the previous rate structure, residential and condos were found to be overcharged 24 and 11 percent relative to cost of service, respectively, while the commercial class was judged to have been 34 percent undercharged for the cost of the district providing sewer services.
Water rate changes
On the water side, the board is looking adopted a 9 percent increase to the flat fee rates for water services for the coming year.
The new structure will have four tiers with increasing rates prorated as water users move into higher tiers. The lowest tier is from 0-20,000 gallons and will be charged at $2.98 per thousand gallons. The current rate structure bills 0-60,000 gallons at $2.73 per thousand gallons.
The irrigation rates will also start at a higher tier, with the aim of incentivizing less water usage in Big Sky’s water-scarce environment. Rates have increased an average of 6 and 9 percent for water and sewer services, respectively, in the last three years, according to district financial officer Terry Smith.
For more information and to calculate the potential change in your water and sewer bill, visit bigskywatersewer.com.