From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):
Mayor Steve Bach said he needs to slash about $6 million from the 2015 budget, and hinted that the nearly $4 million parks watering bill from Colorado Springs Utilities is among the reasons.
Bach said he is not ready to release all of the 2015 budget details, but he did say that part of the budget problem is the high cost of water. There is no discount for the city’s parks, something he said is typical in many cities. Bach did not say if the parks budget would be cut or if he would trim from other areas.
Last year’s general fund budget was $245 million, with $14 million spent on parks, recreation and cultural services. Bach will present his proposed budget to the City Council in October. City Council will host a series of budget hearings in November and is expected to vote on the budget in December.
The price of the city’s parks watering bill has been an issue for more than a decade – long before the current council and mayor began their water wars. For years, the city administration has asked for a discounted water rate from Utilities. For years, Utilities had said no.
Chuck Fowler, a member of the City Committee, which has offered input to the mayor on the budget, said there should be a benefit to having a city-owned utility, and it should be a discount on water for city parks.
“If you owned your own carwash, you would think you could bypass the meter to get your car washed,” he said…
Water bills have doubled for Utilities customers in the past five years, said councilman Merv Bennett. The money has been used to pay for the Southern Delivery System project, a 53-mile pipeline that will pump water from Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs. That project is scheduled to be completed in 2016.
Bennett said the Utilities board could consider reducing water rates for the city’s parks after the SDS project is completed, but not likely before then.
“It comes down to is (park watering) the responsibility of the taxpayer or the ratepayer,” Bennett said. “This council is of the mindset that it is the cost of running the city.”
Bennett and other council members wanted to strike a compromise between Utilities and the city during the last budget session. But once the budget was approved in December, talks broke down…
“I’m disappointed that we couldn’t come up with a solution,” Bennett said…
Council president Keith King said Utilities cannot afford to offer a discounted rate to the city because of the major capital projects in the works. “If you make one group a better deal, who picks up the price of that better deal?” he asked. “We base the (water rates) on the true cost of service. Those are legitimate numbers.”
More Colorado Springs Utilities coverage here.