Temporary utility rate increases, which cost Columbia residents an average of $5.90 per month, may become permanent in the next fiscal year as a result of sewer, water and electric revenue adjustments in the proposed 2005 city budget.
With Columbia’s power costs on the rise, the city anticipates the need for a 9 percent overall increase in electric revenue, City Manager Raymond Beck said at a press conference Thursday morning. The increase will replace a temporary 9.5 percent increase that will be effective until Oct. 1.
“This is probably one of the most substantial rate increases I’ve seen,” Beck said of the electric rate adjustment. “Our rates remain competitive to other cities’ despite the increases.”
In the proposed 2005 budget, Beck compared local water and electric residential rates to those in several Missouri cities and counties. According to Beck’s proposed budget, Columbia’s water rates were only higher than rates in Independence. Residents in St. Joseph, Jefferson City, Sedalia, Fulton, and St. Louis County pay more for water utility. Columbia ranked fifth on a list of six Missouri electric residential rates. Only Springfield ranked lower.
A 9.5 percent temporary fuel-adjustment allowance went into effect June 1 to help the city pay for energy capacity lost in a new, short-term AmerenUE contract. The proposed 9 percent permanent electric revenue increase would be implemented at the start of the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.
Beck said that the Water and Light Department is looking into options for a long-range power purchase, and the rates are being restructured to encourage conservation, especially during peak months. The proposed budget emphasizes new conservation programs such as a building operator certification program to educate managers on energy conservation.
Another program under consideration is an Energy Star program called “Change A Light, Change the World.” It would require Water and Light to work closely with the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance to provide retail shoppers rebates for purchasing compact fluorescent lights, said Water and Light Utilities Services Manager Tina Worley.
The Water and Light Department also anticipates the city’s water revenue to rise 7.5 percent, impacting residents and customers by an average of 81 cents per month. This adjustment is the result of rising water utility operating costs and a water bond issue passed last fall that allotted $28.3 million to increase the capacity of the city’s water treatment and distribution system.
Beck said that changes in utility rates will vary among Columbia residents.
In addition to utility rate adjustments, the proposed budget addresses neighborhood safety by allocating money to, “better respond to citizen concerns.” These funds would allow for the installation of permanent speed radars in school zones and the purchase of new temporary radars.
“We get daily complaints about speeding from people in neighborhoods,” said Sgt. Timothy Moriarity of the Columbia Police Department. “The radars we currently have in our cars are old, but they still work. There’s better technology out there though.”
The Columbia Police Department recently bid on three new mobile speed signs, or radar trailers, to replace two older ones. The new radars have traditional speed
display, but can also display messages and record data.
To satisfy city needs, the budget proposes 25 new city staff positions. Last year, 12 positions were added.
“We actually had 50 new employee requests,” Beck said. “We have an outstanding city staff. We’ve turned the corner from an economic standpoint. Many cities have to cut out employment in public safety. Columbia has averaged 22 new permanent positions each year in the past 10 years.”
The proposed city staff positions include two police and two firefighter, 10 public works and three Water and Light apprentice positions.
Beck will have work sessions with the City Council and staff to discuss the proposed budget. The 2005 budget is expected to be adopted Sept. 20.