Rate increases need restructuring
I read our newspaper on Thursday, May 19, with surprise at your attempt to create a new rate structure for the utilities of Boulder City at a workshop rather than a city council meeting.
I have sent this letter to the members of city council who are attempting to correct a situation that has festered for over 20 years concerning our utility rate structure and the city’s financial future. I am particularly concerned about a onetime 54 percent water rate increase and a multiyear increase across the board for water, electric and sewer. While I laud your efforts to attempt to reconstruct a more financially viable city with increased utility rates, prior city councils have not dealt with this issue constructively for about 20 years. There are already questions floating around in Boulder City about our city staff and its capability to communicate with its citizens. Therefore, rate restructuring could become a volatile and emotional issue in the near future. I am merely reflecting my experiences of objections to the behavior of our city staff from our citizens. I have suggested to you that you have a permanent, full-time public information officer who can attend social functions on a day-to-day basis, talking to our citizens and making sure that their concerns are vetted.
There has to be a constant interface with citizens to voice opinions in a political environment. You are likely aware that people don’t always remember what they want to talk about until they see you or your representatives in public.
We have a motto in Boulder City proclaiming ourselves as “Clean Green Boulder City.” While I agree with your city staff that you have a utility rate issue that requires resolution, I also know that it takes time for citizens to respond with their personal and financial situations to the increases in rates proposed by your staff. That is the reason I am suggesting that you restructure your rate increases to show more concern for our citizens, especially those on fixed or low incomes. Don’t forget that Social Security gave them a zero-percent cost-of-living increase in 2016. We have many people with this financial situation in Boulder City.
I am also suggesting that you postpone your rate increases until November when the outdoor temperatures finally drop enough so that water and electricity use decline significantly. That would mitigate any cost of service increases to the citizens. I have witnessed many times our outdoor temperatures shifting significantly around Halloween.
At most, I would raise the water rates 10 percent in the initial year, dealing with the issue over time. Our citizens are then better able to take advantage of the program established by the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) to replace sod with low-water-use vegetation. SNWA can provide a $1 per square foot rebate for sod removed in the yards of Boulder City residents. That way, any future water rate increases will be mitigated to the citizens who take advantage of this SNWA program.
You may recall that the city council implied that “land sales” were going to keep our utility rates low in the initiative concerning the land development at Bristlecone and Adams that was approved by our citizens. You and your actions are now implying that the land sales vote was irrelevant by approving the full amount of increases in utility rates in one vote. You may want to keep an open door to your constituents in the future. In other words, I would suggest that you never approve more than a one-year increase in rates and rate structures since the city council will want to know the city’s financial position in the future before approving any additional rate increases.
More importantly, you may want to know how our citizens are responding to the increase in costs associated with the services provided by our city in their individual lives before taking any actions concerning possible rate increases.
Eric L. Lundgaard
Former Mayor and city councilman (1985-1997)