Council to vote on proposed utilities increase for 2005

Sunday, September 19, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:57 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Columbia residents will have a final chance to speak on proposed utility rate hikes when the city council meets Monday to vote on the fiscal 2005 budget.

The average residential bill for city utilities could increase by $5.90 per month due to higher rates for electric, water and sewer services, said City Manager Ray Beck at a Friday press conference.

Pending a council vote, the rate increases would be written into the city code to complement the $277.5 million budget.

Overall electric revenue will rise by 9 percent and replace a temporary 9.5 percent rise in rates adopted on June 1, Beck said.

Known as a fuel-adjustment allowance, the temporary hike offset the higher cost of electricity purchased by the city under a contract with St. Louis-based AmerenUE, according to Columbia Water and Light Director Dan Dasho.

Rather than a short-term fix, however, Dasho said the proposed rate changes fit into a larger vision for keeping utility costs down.

“We realize power costs are going up, so we’re looking at ways of choosing a path so as to keep long-term rate increases as low as possible,” he said.

Residential customers could see their bills increase by 9 to 11 percent, Dasho said. The higher rates would apply during peak usage times, such as summer.

At the press conference, Beck stressed the $5.90 per month figure was only an estimate of the financial impact of the utility rate increases on households.

Depending on electricity use, some households could see their monthly electric bills increase by as much as $15 in peak months.

Water rates will also rise by 7.5 percent to generate revenue for utility-related debts and operational costs. Sanitary sewer rates will increase by 4 percent.

Despite the increases, Beck has repeatedly said that Columbia’s utility rates remain competitive with other cities, citing a survey completed prior to the first draft of the fiscal 2005 budget.

Other fee changes include increased recreation fees for the city’s golf courses and adult softball, volleyball and basketball programs.

The council held two previous public hearings on the budget at its Aug. 16 and Sept. 7 meetings.

Dasho said that the budget and utility rate increases received no public comment at either meeting.

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