Water rate to be raised three percent

By Gray Hughes

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After staying stagnant the last couple of years, the water rate in Hill City is set to go up three percent.

The increase is a part of the 2020 budget that was approved at Monday’s Hill City Common Council meeting; however, Brett McMacken, city administrator for Hill City, said a separate vote at the next council meeting will need to be had in order to approve the increase.

“In our budget process, we need to not only estimate expenditures but also income,” McMacken said in an interview Aug. 23. “But they hardly ever balance out right off the bat. Our goal is to review expenditures. In the case of the water rate, we had not changed the rate in several years.”

The water and sewer bill in Hill City is broken down into four parts: water, water improvement, sewer and sewer improvements. Each part is broken down into specific rates that total $20.39 per 1,000 gallons for the current year

The rate for water in Hill City had been at $6.64. The three percent increase in the water rate will raise the price for water by 20 cents to $6.84, meaning the water price will be at $20.59 pending the vote by the Hill City Common Council at its next meeting.

As it stands now, $1.75 per 1,000 gallons is charged for water improvement, $11 per 1,000 gallons is charged for sewer and $1 per 1,000 gallons is charged for sewer improvement.

The money generated by each charge can only be used for that purpose. For example, water improvement funds can only be used for water improvements.

The money being generated by the water rate is used for treating and distributing water.

Typically, McMacken said, the average family uses roughly 4,000 gallons of water a month, so they will see their bill go up 80 cents.

“We are (raising the water rate) now so that we don’t need to do a very large one all of a sudden,” McMacken said. “We’re at the point where we can’t cover all of the expenditures with the current rate.”

The goal, McMacken said, is not to make money off of the water increase — or the water rate in general. The government, he said, is not in the business of turning a profit.

The change in the rate is being done to reflect the true cost of supplying the city of Hill City with water, he said.

“We are not talking huge money for a household,” he said. “And it will not yield a huge amount of revenue. It is a necessary adjustment.”

Currently, the reserve water funds are “looking good,” McMacken said at the Aug. 26 council meeting, and the sewer fund is balanced out as well.

Pending approval by the Hill City Common Council, the new water rate is set to go into effect Jan. 1.

The next Hill City Common Council meeting will be Sept. 9 at 5:30 p.m.

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