Silverthorne eyes increasing water fees for consumers as operations have become ‘not sustainable’

Silverthorne Town Hall is pictured Thursday, July 28, 2022.
Eliza Noe/Summit Daily News

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the fee schedule for water rates.

As costs to operate have risen, the town of Silverthorne is looking at reevaluating its water fees.

Silverthorne finance director Laura Kennedy said the town recommends increasing sewer rates by 5% and stormwater management fees by 10% as Town Council mulls over a proposal to increase water usage fees to meet rising costs of operations.

The fees for water usage are charged as a flat fee and a tiered fee, which are charged quarterly. The current flat rate is $56.40 for a single-family residence up to three bedrooms and three bathrooms. For every additional bedroom or bathroom, the base rate increases by $5.64. The tiered rates are set up in four groups: 0-15,000 gallons, 15,001-30,000 gallons, 30,001-50,000 gallons and more than 50,001 gallons.

The town of Silverthorne has various high-volume water users that include car washes, laundromats and hotels. Town government facilities — such as the Recreation Center, which houses the town’s pool and showers — are heavy users as well.

Kennedy said commercial users — rather than residential units — are using the most water, so an increase to tiered rates would impact businesses more so than households or families.

“With our costs increasing by 5%, (the current system is) not keeping up with costs,” Kennedy said. “Council has indicated that sustainability is a priority, and if you increase the tiered rates, then that encourages water conservation because the more you use, the more you pay.”

If the town were to increase the flat rate by 10%, Kennedy said it would, approximately, bring an additional $30,000 per year, which is roughly $15 more per year for the average household. If there were changes to the tiered structure, it would bring an additional $120,000 per year, which is roughly $23.47 more per year for the average household.

Town Council members showed more interest in increasing tiered rates rather than flat rates to create more incentive for large water users to conserve and rethink water usage. 

“We have new federal monitoring that’s required, and that’s going to be a thing to pay for, as well. And all these things should hopefully improve our water system,” council member Erin Young said. “But there just has to be a ‘why’ behind (raising rates).”

Town manager Ryan Hyland added that Silverthorne, comparatively, has always had lower water rates.

Town Council member Tim Applegate suggested it may be better to increase fees all at once instead of small increments so that residents do not feel like the town is constantly increasing fees.

Kennedy said that any increase would be to make sure the town can sustain services and cover the costs of operations.

“We’re not in dire straits. We definitely have a fund balance here,” she said. “It definitely helps. And in 2018, we had kind of an inverse there, where we had revenues above expenditures, but things are starting to trend the other way, and that’s not sustainable.”

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