When talking about money no one wants to hear about an increase unless it's related to salary, a dividend check or some other sort of payout. Otherwise, we're really only interested in decreases, like the discounts many take advantage of on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Or the fuel cost decrease we passed along to you Nov. 1.
I don't have any of that for you today. Closest I've got is to tell you that at Colorado Springs Utilities, we DO NOT pay dividends to fancy investors from big cities who have never even set foot in our beautiful city. In fact, we're owned by our citizens and charge customers only enough to maintain safe, reliable utility services for the community.
In the fall of each year, tied to the next years' budget, we ask City Council for rate changes to support the operations and maintenance of the utilities system for the year ahead. Or, said another way, if we have need to spend more money to upgrade, replace, repair or install new pipes, wires or plants (e.g. electric generation, water reclamation, water treatment), we ask for rate changes. We may ask for changes, too, to ensure we fairly charge specific rate classes, based on the cost to serve them.
It's not necessary to increase rates for all four services every year, thanks to the hard work of yesterday's and today's utilities' employees. After all, most employees are customers too and have a vested interest in keeping rates low for everyone.
Council today unanimously approved changes to 2018 rates. The changes primarily affect water, wastewater and electric rates. Typical, four-service residential customers will see a $4.21 (1.9 percent) increase, while typical industrial and commercial customer rates will increase by 0.5 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively. Since individual utilities use and rate classes vary, you can use our online calculator to determine how the approved changes will impact you specifically.
The other portion of your utility rates are tied to cost we pay for fuel. We pass along changes in those costs to you periodically -- usually quarterly. On Nov. 1, we implemented a rate decrease of about 1.3 percent (or $3.03) on the typical residential bill.
Since as a citizen you are an owner of Colorado Springs Utilities, you should understand why we asked for these changes.
- The largest portion of the increase supports water services. Because we don't have a major waterway in Colorado Springs, we pipe in fresh, Rocky Mountain water from more than 100 miles away. Then, we have hundreds more miles of pipe to maintain that carries the water around the city, to water treatment facilities and to homes and businesses. Some of these pipes are nearly 100 years old. We have a treatment plant that is 75 years old and it's time to upgrade it. There are also tanks and pumps and wastewater facilities to keep running. The cost to maintain the system doesn't fluctuate with water use. It costs the same to keep water flowing safely and reliably to you (and wastewater taken away from you), whether you're using a little or a lot.
- Smaller changes are impacting the electric portion of your bill. Electric utilities are experiencing more changes today than at any time in history (e.g. environmental regulations, cyber and physical security concerns, renewable energy, and conservation products and programs). The 2018 rate changes are the implementation of phase-three of a three-phase plan to address an electric revenue shortfall. The proposed changes better align customer cost with our cost to serve them.
I don't like any of my bills to increase. But, I happen to think it's pretty cool that so much work goes into figuring out how to fairly charge customers for utility services and so many smart folks work every day to keep water flowing, lights on, and homes warm. I like it when wastewater disappears without having to know how it all works, too.
So, yes, rates are going up a bit -- about the same as the inflation rate. I can assure you though, they're only rising enough to continue to bring you safe, reliable utilities that you depend upon every moment of every day.