Published Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009 | 7:18 p.m.
Updated Friday, Jan. 9, 2009 | 6:25 p.m.
Boulder City residents this year can expect increases to their power bills to help the city pay for its share of Southern Nevada Water Authority's third intake from Lake Mead.
Water and sewer rates got costlier last October for the same reason.
The city in November discovered a $1.8 million shortfall in last fiscal year’s budget, which ended in June, because of lower sales tax collections, fewer collected city fees and royalties and higher expenses at the fire department and Boulder City Municipal Golf Course. The budget year ended with $3.2 million instead of $5 million in its balance.
That has the city searching for ways to be leaner and more efficient. The reduced income also has the city getting serious about saving money for its impending $26 million bill to the Water Authority. The city plans to pay it in $1.6 million chunks annually for 20 years and expects to begin paying in July, City Manager Vicki Mayes said.
The third pipeline is to ensure the water supply to the Las Vegas Valley remains sufficient as Lake Mead levels lower.
The City Council in a special budget meeting Tuesday discussed the imminent electricity hikes and other financial issues.
A penny increase in electric bills would generate $1.5 million over a year, Finance Director Tim Inch said.
In the summer, a larger home would pay about $25 extra a month and a smaller home would pay an extra $15, Electric Utility Administrator Ned Shamo said. In the winter months, a larger home would see a raise of $10 to $12, and a smaller home would see $7 to $8, he said.
The increase in last year's water and sewer rates was expected to bring $750,000 to the city by next October for water and sewer capital projects. Residents now pay an extra $60 a year for sewer service, and water rates went up by about 10 percent, tiered so that heavier users paid more.
The city has postponed $5 million in water and sewer projects, including a rehab of sewer lines under Buchanan Boulevard and Wastewater Treatment Plant improvements.
That leaves the expected $750,000 from last year's increases and future electrical rate increases, dedicated to the "third straw," the council was told.
Mayor Roger Tobler said rate users alone can't be expected to shoulder the big expense.
The city sold 5 billion fewer gallons of water in the fiscal year that ended last June than it did the previous year, Inch told the council. If rates get any higher, Tobler said, residents will conserve and conversely bring less money to the city.
The council also heard ways Mayes planned to compensate for the $1.8 million budget shortfall.
In December, she implemented $1.3 million in general fund cuts until July — eliminating travel and training budgets and several part-time employees and holding off on buying nine new police cars.
The council Tuesday also made preliminary plans to save money in the fiscal 2009-10 budget, which it will begin drafting next month.
Voters in November approved selling industrial lots to pay for the intake pipe from Lake Mead, and in the future, maybe voters would approve selling lots around Boulder Creek Golf Club as well, Tobler said.
Councilman Travis Chandler said he hopes department heads will provide more ways to cut costs for the general and utility funds, but in the meantime, rate hikes are inevitable.
He said he hopes the sale of industrial land approved by voters will settle the city's debts so rates can return to previous levels.
Cassie Tomlin can be reached at 948-2073 or firstname.lastname@example.org.