Home > Residents > Water > Rates > Rate Increase > HOA/Schools/Church Customers > HOA/Schools/Church Customers FAQ

HOA/Schools/Church Customers FAQ

What specific rates are going up on my bill?
Water and sewer rates and the fixed meter service fee. Tap fees are paid by developers, and for new or expanded construction only.

What will the new rates be?
View a chart for the 2019 and the 2020 rate schedule.

What do my rates pay for?
As our city’s utility system ages, more and more repairs and replacements are required. Westminster experiences some of the same increases in costs that HOAs do. Maintaining aging systems is expensive, though Westminster is able to do it and keep water and sewer rates at about average for the region. View this video for more details.

What kind of projects does the utility do? How does the utility spend the money that it receives from customers?
The Water and Sewer Utility combined have a replacement value of approx. $4 billion. A system of this size and complexity requires significant planning and reinvestment to ensure that we provide you with safe, clean drinking water and reliable wastewater service day in, day out. 

View a list of the utility projects that we’ve included in the last several budget cycles (2011-2018) to provide some context for what those projects are, and what they cost. Over that 8 year period, there was a total of $183.4 million approved for water and wastewater projects, which is an average of about $23 million per year. There was an increase of 2016 project spending due to a $51 million bond issuance, and the increases in 2017 and 2018 were due to the 8 percent and 6 percent rate increases for water and sewer, respectively.  

With a $4 billion total asset value today, the 8-year total represents about a 0.5 percent annual reinvestment rate; or about a 200-year life cycle. 

Please also review the CIP list for 2019 and 2020. This list is in the budget that passed on first reading on Oct. 8. The 2019-2020 adopted Capital Improvement Program (CIP) list includes a water and wastewater project total of $122.8 million for 2019 and $16.1 million for 2020. These amounts include approx. $102 million of debt issuance in 2019.

Why is the city increasing water rates?
Rate changes fund the repair and maintenance of Westminster’s water infrastructure. Every extra dollar spent flows directly back into the community, providing continued access to the fresh tasting, high-quality water we depend on every day. The city is increasing water and sewer rates to repair aging infrastructure and meet cleaner water standards. Reliable pipes, pumps, tanks, chemicals, equipment, replacement parts and treatment plants ensure you keep receiving clean water every day of the year.

Our operating expenses increase every year as our costs such as labor, parts, chemicals and contracts increase. Please see the budgets for 2015/2016 and 2017/2018 budget cycles to get an idea of how our expenses have increased annually.

The Utility also has large projects that are budgeted as a part of the Capital Improvement Program (CIP). These are projects to repair/replace aging infrastructure, and to make improvements to allow for growth, changing regulations, etc. Staff presented a staff report to City Council on April 16, 2018 detailing the needs of the Utility and the associated costs. View the staff report

Staff has presented City Council with a number of other foundational documents (see below) explaining the water/sewer rate and tap fee needs and processes. 
Water and Sewer Rate/Fee Study Update - Dec. 4, 2017                 
Water and Sewer Rate/Fee Study Update – Infrastructure - April 2, 2018             
Utility Infrastructure Overview/Primer for Rate and Fee Recommendations    
Water/Sewer Rate/Fee Study – Tap Fees - April 23, 2018                               
Presentation of Water and Sewer Rate/Fee Study – Tap Fees - May 7, 2018               
Water and Sewer Rate/Fee Study – Rates - May 14, 2018               
Presentation of Water/Sewer Rate and Fee Study – Proposed 2019/2020 Rates - July 16, 2018
Updated Sewer Tap Fees with Metro Wastewater Reclamation District Component – Aug. 13, 2018 
Staff Presentation Regarding Proposed 2019 and 2020 Water and Sewer Rates and Tap Fees – Sept. 10, 2018
First Reading of Councillor’s Bill No. 37 re: 2019 and 2020 Water and Wastewater Rate Recommendations – Sept. 24, 2018
First Reading of Councillor’s Bill No. 38 re: 2019 and 2020 Water and Wastewater Tap Fee Recommendations – Sept. 24, 2018
Second Reading of Councillor’s Bill No. 37 re: 2019 and 2020 Water and Wastewater Rate Recommendations – Oct. 8, 2018
Second Reading of Councillor’s Bill No. 38 re: 2019 and 2020 Water and Wastewater Tap Fee Recommendations– Oct. 8, 2018      

How are sewer rates changing? How do you calculate those amounts, and is that process changing?
Sewer rates will increase in 2019 and 2020. Since we don’t have sewer meters, the amount we charge our customers for wastewater service is calculated based on the water you use in the winter months of December, January and February. That is our best gauge of how our customers are using water indoors, since there is typically little outdoor water use happening in the winter months. 

The city has built and maintained a wastewater system that stands ready to serve all city customers at any time. While the average single-family residential customer uses 5,000 gallons of water in the winter time, some customers have little or no water use in these months. Staff recognizes that even though some customers may be gone from their homes during a portion of the year, and others may use very little indoor water in the winter, the city must operate the wastewater system to provide that service at any time.

To ensure that each customer pays an appropriate amount to keep the sewer system ready to provide service, all customers, both residential and commercial, will pay a minimum monthly "readiness to serve" charge that is set at an amount equivalent to a 2,000 gallon monthly charge. With water revenues, all customers pay a fixed fee to cover the operation of the water system, regardless of water use. In the wastewater system, a minimum charge will provide a similar level of equity.

We don’t use much water in our house at all, and have worked hard in the past to keep our indoor water use to a minimum. Why are you charging me sewer rates as if I were using more water? 
Staff recognizes that even though some customers may use very little indoor water in the winter, the city must operate the wastewater system to provide that service at any time. To ensure that each customer pays an appropriate amount to keep the sewer system ready to provide service, all customers, both residential and commercial, will pay a minimum monthly "readiness to serve" charge that is set at an amount equivalent to a 2,000 gallon monthly charge. With water revenues, all customers pay a fixed fee to cover the operation of the water system, regardless of water use. In the wastewater system, a minimum charge will provide a similar level of equity.

Sewer Fee Chart

Sewer Rates

When will the increase go into effect?
Jan. 1, 2019 and Jan. 1, 2020

Why are you raising our rates if we’re conserving water? I feel like we're being penalized for doing the right thing.
Conservation of water has had a very positive impact on our overall system. Rate increase recommendations to City Council are based on the needs of the overall system, and our number one priority is ensuring that our valuable utility system is ready to serve our customers all day, every day.

We actually heard this question a few years ago, so we did some research to see what our rates would have been if we had never implemented any conservation measures in the city. Here’s what we found.Without conservation, the city would have needed the following:

  • A bigger water treatment plant, at the cost of approx. $130 million.
  • A bigger sewer treatment plant, at the cost of approx. $20 million.
  • The City would had to have purchase more water rights, at the cost of approximately $220 million. 
  • We couldn’t have paid for all of these costs with cash, so we would have issued debt. We estimated the interests costs at approx. $223 million. 

That’s $593 million of work that we would have needed, and which would have been funded from rates and tap fees.

Our residents have done a tremendous job of conserving water – since 1980, water use has dropped by 21%!  However, we understand the frustration of those making a concerted effort to conserve their water because they are still seeing costs continuing to increase each year due to the hard costs of maintaining the overall system. If the city hadn’t adopted conservation measures, we would have needed more funding from our customers, to the tune of an additional 94 percent of rate increases over the years. Our customers conserving water has helped to not raise rates as much as if they hadn’t conserved water. 

What can I do to reduce the amount of water I pay for through fees?

  • Encourage your HOA to rigorously evaluate outdoor water use and seek water savings opportunities – like improving irrigation systems and reducing turf areas. The city offers free sprinkler consultations that your HOA may utilize.
  • As the trees in your common areas get older and need to be replaced, ask your HOA Board to consider native Colorado tree species instead of water-hungry varieties. There are many native trees that will add landscape value while also reducing water bills. 
  • Work with your landscape management companies. Instead of “set it and forget it,” ask them to monitor and update the irrigation system schedules based on the season. 
  • Work with your HOA Board to review and change bylaw language that requires a certain amount of turf grass. There are some beautiful xeriscape landscapes out there that use significantly less water than turf grass. 
  • Recycle the rain; use rain barrels to collect precipitation and reuse it outdoors.
  • Replace your toilets with the most water efficient “WaterSense” labeled toilets. They don’t cost any more money and could reduce your toilet’s use by 20 percent or more on each flush. Your toilet is the largest water user in your home, so there are big savings to achieve! 
  • The city offers a Water Bill Assistance Program for certain income-qualifying residents that includes a free toilet replacement program.

Why can City Council raise my water and sewer rates without putting the increases on the ballot every time? Isn’t this a tax?
The city’s water, sewer and stormwater utilities are considered as an Enterprise. City Council adopted an ordinance in 1994 establishing the water and sewer utility, and in 2015, amended and restated the ordinance to include the stormwater utility. A Utility Enterprise receives its funding from the customer charges and fees that are needed to pay for the costs of performing services. Because the utility is an enterprise, and the funding is from fees charged for the services provided to our customers, City Council has the authority to adjust the rates and fees charged by the utility, and to issue debt to fund utility projects. 

What is the cost to upgrade the water system?
The Utility Fund Capital Improvement Program (CIP) projects in the proposed 2019/2020 budget were provided to City Council in a post-meeting on Aug 27. View the staff report (a link to the project titles and funding amounts, as well as project descriptions are located at the bottom of the report). The water and wastewater projects on that list are also factored into the 2019/2020 water and sewer rate recommendations that were presented to City Council on Sep 10 for discussion and will be on the City Council agenda again on Sep 24 for a formal vote. There is a CIP project list as part of each 2-year budget to address ongoing project needs for the Utility.  

Can the city’s General Fund (sales tax money) be used to help reduce my water and sewer bills?
Because the utility is considered an Enterprise, City Council can adopt the rates and fees needed to fund these services. While City Council has the legal authority to subsidize the Utility Fund with the General Fund up to a certain amount, staff believes the financial management of the city is best served when rate payers directly fund the services they receive. In addition, the General Fund has its own infrastructure needs, and the use of the General Fund to offset Utility Fund needs would limit the resources to address those needs.

Did the temporary moratorium the city enacted for development applications cause the water and sewer rate or tap fee increases?
No, the water, sewer and tap fee increases are the result of a year-long study and reflect the demands of operating and investing in a $4 billion infrastructure that is critical to provide safe, high quality, compliant and reliable water and sewer services to customers. Such a study had not been performed since 2006, and it clearly revealed that rates and fees were not keeping pace with infrastructure needs. More information on the moratorium is on the city website.

Is development in Downtown Westminster, Westminster Station or other construction focus areas causing the water, sewer and tap fee increases for 2019 and 2020?
No, the rate increases are primarily driven by the age and condition of our existing utility system, not growth. Our Public Works & Utilities Department has already identified specific infrastructure projects that must be replaced. New growth in Westminster pays its fair share to connect into our excellent water supply and sewer systems. 

Are there planned utility construction projects that have been accelerated due to growth?
Yes, the Big Dry Creek Interceptor Sewer construction funding originally programmed for 2022 and 2023 is proposed to move forward to 2019. It should be noted that this project is predominantly to address known age and condition concerns, but it will simultaneously address some capacity concern within the sewer system.

Does the city offer waivers or rebates on water or sewer tap fees to developers as a development incentive?
No, the city does not offer any sort of waiver, rebate or reduction for water and sewer tap fees. Our staff specifically calculates the tap fees for every new development to ensure that development is paying for its fair share of access to the city’s water and sewer infrastructure, and for access to the city’s water supply. Once a tap fee is paid, that new property pays water and sewer rates just like all other customers. For redevelopment projects, credits for tap fees previously paid are part of the calculation, but tap fees are not waived or otherwise reduced; they are essential to ensure growth helps pay for growth.

Learn more about water conservation in your neighborhood. Watch this 11-minute documentary by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the One World One Water Center at Metropolitan State University.