Sewer rates for Johnson Lane, Genoa residents up for increase
Sewer rates for customers of the North Valley Waste Water Treatment Plant may increase again unless county commissioners renew a subsidy that’s been keeping the rates lower.
The North Valley plant serves about 1,700 customers in Carson Valley. Most people who receive sewer service in the Valley get it from the Minden-Gardnerville Sanitation District in Minden. Indian Hills residents are served by the sewer plant operated by the their general improvement district. The remainder of Douglas County residents are on septic tanks.
In a report to commissioners Public Works Director Carl Ruschmeyer said the current monthly rate covers the sewer plant’s cash expenses, but does not fund a reserve.
Ruschmeyer is presenting two options to county commissioners on Thursday. The first option would see the rate increase in steps from $58.09 to $63.33 a month starting July 1 and then up to $68.44 on July 1, 2013. The second would increase the rate to $68.44 a month for two years.
The proposed rate increases are far smaller than the increase to $79.87 in July and $86.95 in 2014 proposed last year to cover reinvestment in the system.
County commissioners are being asked to direct staff to bring a rate resolution to them at the March 1 meeting.
The North Valley plant underwent substantial expansion in 2007 in anticipation of construction in the Johnson Lane area. However, when the recession hit, houses stopped being built, which meant that connection fees stopped coming in. Ruschmeyer said those connection fees were used to subsidize the rates in the past, leaving the utility without a reserve.
Most utilities use connection fees to pay for expansions to serve additional customers, while user fees pay to operate and maintain the utility.
The county has subsidized sewer rates $700,000 over the past three years, in order to soften the impact of the rate increases.
In February 2011, commissioners approved a $250,000 subsidy to keep residents bills from going to $90 a month.
The North Valley plant serves Johnson Lane and Genoa.
Ruschmeyer holds out hope for the future, saying that the utility’s debt begins to drop off in 2017 and will be paid in 2025.
“It is anticipated that the decline in the annual debt service will help fund system reinvestment and stabilize monthly sewer rates in the future,” he said.