Mat-Su Borough Manager John Moosey has submitted the administration’s budget proposal for the coming fiscal year. Included in that proposal is a rate increase for the Talkeetna Sewer and Water System.
Talkeetna Sewer and Water currently has an annual deficit of over $80,000. Last year, CRW Engineering Group conducted a state-funded study on the health of the system as well as a financial analysis. The new budget proposal includes the rate increases suggested by that report.
The rate structure for sewer and water customers will not change. Residential users will be charged a flat fee, and commercial users will be charged a higher flat fee, plus a fee for usage over 8,000 gallons. As part of last year’s assessment, four alternate water rate structures were proposed. Terry Dolan, Public Works Director for the borough, says the rates themselves, and not the structure, were the problem. Additionally, he says that alternatives that involve more comprehensive metering are likely to be met with distrust by local users, since the meters have had a number of issues since their installation.
If the borough follows the recommendations in the financial assessment, this year’s increases will be repeated for the next five years. The rate hikes amount to 13% per year for water and 6% per year for sewer. If the changes go into effect without amendment, that means a residential user will pay about $8 more per month than the current rate. Commercial users’ base rate will increase by just over $10 per month, plus an increase of seventy-nine cents per thousand gallons of water used over 8,000. If the rate increases continue for five years, as called for in the assessment, commercial and residential users will pay about 60% more for their sewer and water bill than they do today.
The assessment also notes that the proposed rate increases will bring the system close to the operating break-even point, but that there will not be additional funds left over to build a repair and replacement reserve. In the current budget proposal, Public Works Director Terry Dolan lists the improvements recommended by the assessment among the priorities for his department.