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Deficits in Colfax water and sewer budgets for 2018 could mean rate increases

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX — Deficits in the proposed water and sewer budgets for 2018 have prompted the Colfax Village Board to begin thinking about the possibility of rate increases.

The Colfax Village Board reviewed the proposed water and sewer budgets at the November 27 meeting and learned the water utility is expected to have a deficit of nearly $6,000 next year, and the sewer utility is expected to have a deficit of $9,500.

The proposed water  budget for 2018 shows $259,590 in revenue and $265,613 in expenses.

The capital outlay in the 2017 budget for new water meters was $15,000, and the capital outlay for the water meters is $12,000 for 2018.

The 2017 budget shows revenue of $261,790 and expenses of $256,036.

The village board should consider a “simple” rate increase of 3 percent, said Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer.

According to the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin’s website, “the Simplified Rate Case (SRC) is a simple and convenient means for municipal utilities to increase water and sewer rates. This is an inflationary type increase that helps utilities maintain rate continuity so that customers benefit from smaller, more frequent rate increases. The SRC process includes an SRC application and a notice to customers but does not require a public hearing.”

As for the new water meters, Rand Bates, director of public works, said he expects to have the new meters by the last week of March, and after the first quarter water meter readings have been taken, to begin scheduling the installation of the new residential water meters.

The PSC issued a final decision dated August 30, 2017, granting approval for the Village of Colfax to replace water meters at an estimated cost of $103,000.

Based on a recommendation from the public works committee, the Colfax Village Board approved buying new residential water meters earlier this year at the January 9 meeting.

The new water meters will be read with computer software and a tablet computer that will allow public works employees to drive up and down the streets to read the meters rather than having to enter each house to read the meter and record the numbers.

Based on annual report data from 2012 to 2016, the Colfax water utility has had losses of 28,000 gallons to 32,000 gallons of water per customer each year (non-revenue water).

Colfax provides water service to 470 metered customers, and the water utility reported operating revenue of $261,274 in 2016.

The value of the water lost is estimated at between $36,000 and $92,000 each year, according to the PSC’s decision.

Sewer utility

The proposed 2018 budget for the sewer utility shows revenue of $176,700 and expenses of $185,028.

The 2017 budget shows revenue of $174,100 and expenses of $191,004.

The 2018 budget includes $13,000 for alum, the phosphorus removal chemical used in the wastewater treatment lagoons to cause the phosphorus to settle out to the bottom instead of being discharged into the Red Cedar River.

The village board may want to consider a sewer rate increase as well, Niggemann said.

The Colfax sewer utility is deregulated, so rate increases do not have to be approved by the PSC and only require village board approval.