Watch out for higher utility bills |

Watch out for higher utility bills

The Truckee Donner Public Utility District board voted 5-0 on Wednesday to increase the district’s water and electric rates by 5 percent each. The change will go into effect on March 1.For rate payers, that equates to about $4.57 a month for electricity and about $2.56 for water. The original rate increases were presented to the public weeks ago by utility district General Manager Peter Holzmeister at 7 percent a piece, 5 percent to cover rising operational costs, and an additional 2 percent to establish a reserve fund for future projects and expenses. It was a number that was too hard to swallow for both board members and rate payers.”I personally believe that the budget has areas that are questionable,” said director Tim Taylor in a previous meeting. “It is the staff’s responsibility to look at that and back it down.”To drop to a 5 percent increase, the district removed $250,000 that was to be spent on broadband from the budget, which is roughly equivalent to 1 percent of the 2006 budget. The board now has the option of financing the project by borrowing against restricted funds or selling the assets to recoup the $2 million already invested.”The rate increase is not a result of broadband money,” said Holzmeister, “but if you are looking for a reasonable way to avoid part of the increase by finding another way to handle the project, then we have to go into it with our eyes open, knowing that we are going to have to pay it back.”But the deletion of the broadband item from the budget was just part of the solution; the district still has to cut another 1 percent from their costs. The budget was was not adopted at Wednesday’s meeting to give Holzmeister time to take another look at numbers and figure out where other cuts can be made. The process should be finalized within the coming weeks.This decision follows last month’s board approval to increase water and electric connection charges by 5 percent, a move that affects developers of new properties in Truckee. “This budget process has been long and arduous over the past five months, and I would like to move forward and concentrate on looking ahead for the district,” Taylor said.

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