The Caliente City Council met June 26, and in length discussed the possibility of increasing water rates for the City of Caliente. City auditor, Dan McArthur, CPA, was present for the meeting, and explained the overall need for the City to increase their minimum monthly fee.

The cost of maintaining water rights, depreciation and water fees from bulk water sales over the last few years were the three underlying factors in the decision. The current rate of water for the City of Caliente is $26 per month for up to 17,000 gallons of water. The proposed rate is $28 per month for 18,000 gallons. 

The City last incurred a water rate increase in 2008, along with the installation of new water meters at the time.

Fixed costs exist to provide water to the residents, no matter how little or much water is pumped. After the increase in water rates in 2008, many residents as well as the City Council acknowledged that residents started using less water. By adding an extra thousand gallons to the increase, McArthur said, “we’re hoping it gives an incentive,” to use the water.

After battling water rights issues, the City reported spending more than $225,000 from 2013 and 2014 for the cause. In order to keep those water rights, the City must provide proof a necessary amount of water needed for residents in Caliente, as well as increase the funding in the water balance. If residents continue to forgo using water, the City will have to revisit raising monthly minimum fees in another two years, McArthur said. 

Councilman Cody Christensen said, “Our hope is that we bought 20 years or so,” by increasing rates to raise the water fund.

Not many Caliente residents attended the meeting, however Todd Parker, owner of a mobile home/trailer park in Caliente, was present to voice his opinion. Parker has 44 spaces on his lot, and will get charged the minimum for every space, whether occupied or not. Parker reported paying a third of his gross income in utility fees to the City. The increase, he said, is an “astronomical increase for me.”

Although the Council couldn’t make a decision on Parker’s issue at last Thursday’s meeting, they did acknowledge that they needed to look into the situation to see if there was a possible solution.

Other residents that attended questioned if there was any other department in the City, “not paying their way,” and also added that since the additions of the parks, which are kept nicely and watered regularly, there’s been a notice in other residents’ yards and their transformation to more desert landscaping.

The underlying theme from McArthur and the City Council was that in order to secure water rights for Caliente residents, not only would the City Council have to increase fees for their minimum monthly rate, but would need to use the water as well. In a ‘use it or lose it’ situation, the City Council tabled the decision, and encouraged attendants at the meeting to “encourage your neighbors to get involved so we can make informed decisions.” The Council voted unanimously to table the decision until their next meeting that occurred Thursday evening.