ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Successful efforts to save water in the metro area, and a resulting loss of revenue, prompted Albuquerque’s water utility board to approve a 5 percent rate hike Wednesday to shore up the agency’s 2014-15 budget.
The move will cost the typical homeowner an additional $3 a month, raising the average domestic water bill to about $41 a month, when the rate increase takes effect July 1.
The rate increase was approved by a 6-1 vote, with board member and Albuquerque Councillor Rey Garduño casting the lone vote in opposition.
Officials said the rate increase would allow the utility to increase spending on capital projects.
“Everybody hates to see rate increases, but I think because of our aging infrastructure, that’s something that we need to do at this time,” said board chairwoman Klarissa Peña, who is an Albuquerque city councilor.
Garduño said the water utility could have avoided a rate increase by anticipating the drop in consumption.
“There are folks who can’t afford this,” he said. “We could have planned this a little sooner.”
Customers also saw a 5 percent rate hike last July 1.
Utility officials told board members the rate hike is needed to compensate for a 9 percent drop in water consumption over the past year by customers of the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority.
Board members also approved a budget that anticipates revenue of $205.8 million and expenditures of $196.8 million during the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Stan Allred, chief financial officer for the authority, said the utility plans $51 million in capital projects this year, including a long-overdue renovation of the wastewater treatment plant in southern Bernalillo County and replacing aging water and sewer lines.
Mark Sanchez, the utility’s chief executive, said last month that per capita water use over the past year declined from 148 gallons per person per day to 135 gallons, or a 9 percent decline. Per capita water use includes all home and business water use divided by the total population in the utility’s service area.
The utility’s 2013-14 budget had projected only a 2 percent decline in water use, forcing utility managers to deal with a greater-than-expected decline in revenue.
Allred said the unexpected drop in revenue left an $8.7 million shortfall in the agency’s $208 million budget this year.