2022 Rate Increase Q&A
March 08, 2022
CUSTOMER INFORMATION ABOUT RATE AND FEE INCREASES EFFECTIVE MARCH 1, 2022
On February 23rd, the District’s Board of Directors approved new rate and fee increases. The Board provided public notice of the increases and conducted a public hearing. The main questions were:
Why do the rates need to be raised? There are several important reasons:
1. COST INCREASES. Like everyone, the District has experienced dramatic cost increases for supplies, materials, and services. The City of Kalispell has imposed huge increases for wastewater treatment, which now consumes more than 30% of the District’s operating budget each month. At the same time, since the City refuses to allow any extensions of the District’s sewer service boundary, all these increases must be collected from the District’s customers in a confined area. The District is now evaluating alternatives to service from the City, but until there is another option, any increases from the City will be a part of rates.
2. SYSTEM REPLACEMENTS. The District’s Water System is 55 yrs. old; Sewer is 28 yrs. old. Over that time, the District has had a very cautious approach to system maintenance to keep rates as low as possible. Now we have no choice but to replace worn-out equipment throughout our system. A recent study identified replacements and costs in the Sewer system, and we now have a detailed Capital Plan for projects over a ten-year period. We’re using state and federal money when available. If it breaks or wears out, we will fix or replace it to keep your water and sewer services available if at all possible 24/7/365.
3. TECHNOLOGY. Everyone has tried to fix equipment and discovered that the part isn’t made anymore or that the new equipment isn’t compatible with the old equipment. We had a recent break down with a critical piece of older equipment and couldn’t even order a part on eBay. Our system requires technological upgrades to keep it safe and reliable.
4. REGULATION. We will always strive to keep our water and sewer in compliance when new requirements are put into place but it all costs money. We test our water monthly to bring our customers safe clean water that meets every applicable health standard.
5. FAIR TREATMENT OF THE DISTRICT’S STAFF. The District has a loyal and hard-working staff that historically has been paid less than the average wages and benefits in the Valley. With the pressures of labor shortages and increased costs of living, the District has brought its employees up to competitive average wage and benefits.
Will there be more increases next year? In all likelihood, yes. The City’s increases go for 5-years so the District studied all of its costs and projected rate increases for that same period. We will do whatever we can to keep costs down and will take a hard look at all the projects each year. Having a five-year rate path helps us spread the costs over that period so the rate increases aren’t as big in one year as they might have otherwise been. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to pay for all the cost increases and work that must be done. But to be cautious, thorough, and fair, the Board will review increases one year at a time.
How do customers keep Water and Sewer bills as low as possible?
1. Reduce your water use, both indoors and outdoors. (See TIPS on our website, www.evergreenwaterdistrict.com. Call us with questions at 406-257-5861.) You pay for water when it come into your house and sewer when it goes out. Don’t let the faucet run needlessly.
2. Consider low-flow toilets and shower heads. Consider low-water use appliances.
3. Check for leaks in your toilet, faucets, and outdoors.