2015 Utility Rates
As part of the 2015 budget process, the Boulder City Council approved utility rate changes that will increase customers’ monthly charges for water, wastewater, stormwater and flood management services. Since these public services are not funded by tax dollars, they are supported by utility rates and fees paid to three separate “enterprise funds.”
Utility rates are increased in most years to maintain service levels as the costs of various materials and services (such as electricity and construction materials) escalate. Learn more about utility rates.
The 2015 utility rate increases are larger than typical inflationary increases and will be effective beginning Jan. 1, 2015.
Water (Domestic and Irrigation)
In addition to keeping up with increases in construction costs, the 5 percent utility rate increase will help fund several time-sensitive projects to restore components of the city’s aging water treatment and distribution infrastructure.
Wastewater (Sanitary Sewer)
Following the September 2013 flooding, there has been significant public support for additional investment in the wastewater collection system to help reduce the risk of sewer backups during major rainfall events. The 30 percent utility rate increase is intended to fund strategic upgrades that will bring most of the aging wastewater piping system up to current standards within the next 20 years.
Stormwater and Flood Management
With the current utility rates, the city is able to complete a few major flood mitigation projects each decade by accumulating funding over multiple years. The September 2013 flooding both depleted funding accumulated for future projects and significantly increased public interest in expediting flood mitigation efforts.
The 75 percent utility rate increase will fund planned flood mitigation projects, expedite flood mitigation along Boulder’s major drainageways, and accelerate improvements to local drainage systems.
Frequently Asked Questions
How will the utility rate increases impact my monthly utility bill?
Monthly utility bills are based on each customer’s individual water/wastewater use and estimated impact to stormwater runoff.
How to Calculate the Potential Increase
To determine what your most recent bill may be with the new utility rates, multiply your current water charges by 1.05, wastewater charges by 1.3, and stormwater/flood management charges by 1.75. See how to read your utility bill.
If you have any questions about impacts to your utility rates or monthly bill, please contact the city’s Utility Billing Office at 303-441-3260 and a customer service representative will assist you.
A typical single-family residential customer currently pays approximately $66 per month for water, wastewater, stormwater, and flood management services. The total bill increase will be approximately $14.50 per month. Impacts to residents of multi-family structures will vary depending on how the landlord or homeowners’ association (HOA) allocates costs. In general, utility rate impacts will be smaller since certain components of the bill will be distributed over a larger number of residential customers.
Estimated Single-family Residential Bill Impact
|Service||2014 Total Monthly Bill||2015 Total Monthly Bill||Monthly Bill Increase||Percent Increase|
Commercial bills vary significantly from customer to customer. A large water user, such as a hotel, will see a more significant increase in monthly water and wastewater charges than a single-family residential customer. A customer with a large parking lot, such as a grocery store, will see a more significant increase in monthly stormwater and flood management charges than a residential customer on a small lot.
Sample Commercial Accounts Bill Impacts
|Customer||2014 Total Monthly Bill||2015 Total Monthly Bill||Monthly Bill Increase||Percent Increase*|
|Large Format Retailer||$2,176||$3,066||$890||41%|
|Pearl Street Retailer||$96||$120||$24||25%|
Sample Monthly Water and Wastewater Bill for Commercial Accounts
|Customer||2014 Water & Wastewater Bill||2015 Water & Wastewater Bill||Monthly Bill Increase||Percent Increase*|
|Large Format Retailer||$1,292||$1,519||$227||18%|
|Pearl Street Retailer||$86||$102||$17||19%|
Sample Monthly Stormwater Bill for Commercial Accounts
|Customer||2014 Stormwater Bill||2015 Stormwater Bill||Monthly Bill Increase||Percent Increase*|
|Large Format Retailer||$884||$1,547||$663||75%|
|Pearl Street Retailer||$10||$17||$7||75%|
*Overall bill impacts will vary between customers based on the relative portion of each service (water, wastewater, and stormwater/flood management) that makes up the bill.
Who approves rate increases?
Boulder’s elected City Council is responsible for making decisions about the utility rates needed to support the community-owned water, wastewater, and stormwater/flood utilities. City Council considers input from residential and commercial customers, advisory boards, and staff in determining the appropriate levels of investment and corresponding utility rates.
Boulder residents serving on the Water Resources Advisory Board held several public meetings in 2014 and then made a recommendation for utility rates on June 16. The Planning Board considered the citywide Capital Improvement Program (CIP), including the three utilities, at a public hearing on July 31.
City Council held a study session about the CIP on Aug. 12 and a second study session related to the overall budget on Sept. 9. Both study sessions were open to the public, but did not include a public hearing. The public was invited to submit comments to council prior to the two study sessions, and had the opportunity to formally address City Council during the Oct. 7 and Oct. 21 business meetings.
Will these rate increases ensure that we don’t experience issues like during last September in the future?
Boulder has regularly experienced flooding since it was founded in the late 1800s. Regardless of the level of investment in flood mitigation and public infrastructure, Boulder will continue to experience flooding in the future.
Additional investments made possible by the utility rate increases will help reduce the impacts of flooding and allow public infrastructure to withstand larger flood events.
- Flood mitigation projects along Boulder’s major drainageways will help improve conveyance capacity and reduce overtopping of creeks into homes and businesses.
- Maintenance and improvements to the storm drainage system will help collect surface water and deliver it to creeks. Many areas of the city were constructed prior to modern storm drainage standards and currently have no formal stormwater drainage facilities.
- Rehabilitation of the sanitary sewer system will help reduce groundwater infiltration and restore the structural integrity of aging sewer pipes.
Are Boulder’s rates higher than surrounding communities?
Boulder compares its utility rates to surrounding communities on an annual basis and has historically maintained competitive rates. The 2015 rate increases will move Boulder from ninth to fifth as compared to 15 other Front Range communities’ overall 2014 rates.
Boulder is generally considered the number one flash flood risk in the state of Colorado and makes larger investments in stormwater and flood management than many communities.
Is the city just raising utility rates as a way to fund other programs and services?
The city’s utility funds are established in the city charter as designated “enterprise funds” that can only be used for utilities purposes. Changes to the city charter require a public vote.
Where can I find out about what projects and services will be funded under the proposed CIP?
View the detailed budget and rate analysis provided to the Water Resources Advisory Board on June 16, 2014.
What is a Plant Investment Fee? Are those also increasing?
New developments in the city are required to pay Plant Investment Fees to help compensate existing utility customers for their previous investments in public infrastructure. The city uses a “buy-in” methodology where the total value of existing utility systems is determined and new users essentially buy shares in the system.
Plant Investment Fees are increased based on changes in the total value of each municipal utility system and are not adjusted based on other rate changes. Plant Investment Fees for new development are expected to increase by approximately 4 percent in 2015, based on construction cost indices.
My house isn’t in the floodplain, didn’t flood in September 2013, and/or doesn’t have a storm sewer nearby. Why do I have to pay a monthly stormwater and flood management fee?
All residents and businesses benefit from stormwater and flood management services, regardless of their location or immediately adjacent infrastructure. Many properties are located outside of a mapped floodplain because of past mitigation projects. Boulder residents and businesses receive up to a 25 percent discount on flood insurance due to the city’s participation in the National Flood Insurance Program.
Although properties located within a mapped floodplain are generally considered to have the highest flood risk, major floods affect all residents and businesses, regardless of where they are located, since flooding impacts roads, utilities, communications, emergency response, recreation, and other public infrastructure and services.
Didn’t FEMA pay for the damage from the flood?
The city has applied for reimbursement of flood response and recovery expenses that staff believes meet FEMA eligibility requirements. As of June 30, 2014, the city has spent approximately $15.1 million on flood response and recovery and received approximately $234,000 in FEMA reimbursements. The total cost of response and recovery efforts is estimated to be approximately $27.3 million. FEMA’s Public Assistance program has very specific eligibility requirements and will not cover the full cost of flood response and recovery. Mitigation projects to prepare for future floods are not included in this federal program.
Is the city pursuing other avenues for revenue, such as grant funding?
Yes, the city is actively pursuing a wide range of additional funding sources. Grant funding is limited and generally awarded through a competitive process. If significant grant funding is received, it could help offset future rate increases or allow future mitigation projects to be completed sooner.
Does this increase now mean that there will be no more increases for a while?
No, but the increases should allow for increases more consistent with inflation and construction cost escalation for several years. The utilities Capital Improvement Program (CIP) schedule includes some larger increases in future years to fund significant infrastructure projects. View the proposed 2015-2020 CIP for details about anticipated future rate increases.