Lower fuel costs, efficiency keep Utilities’ bills down

In October, Colorado Springs Utilities presented our 2013 annual budget to the Utilities Board. It’s a lean, responsible spending plan focused on delivering our customers essential utility services and helping to strengthen the community we serve.

Our 2013 budget is $1.059 billion, $52 million less than last year’s budget. This reduction is largely the result of lower coal and natural gas costs and effective cost management by our employees.

The decrease still allows us to provide safe, reliable service while holding the line on rates.

That’s good news for all of our customers. Our costs for natural gas and coal are lower than expected. As a not-for-profit utility, we are passing along those savings to our customers. We expect the typical residential, four-service monthly utility bill to be nearly $2 lower in January 2013 than January 2012. Bills for typical commercial and industrial customers are expected to be 5 to 7 percent lower than in 2012.

The 2013 proposed budget includes investments needed to build the Southern Delivery System and bring a dependable water supply to Colorado Springs now and for future generations. Funds will also be used to replace at-risk electric equipment and water pipes, improve the wastewater system and further control power plant emissions and improve air quality.

We are keeping a flat regular labor budget through responsible use of outsourcing and working smarter. Labor accounts for 17 percent of the overall annual budget. We are also pursuing cost savings for fleet vehicles and equipment, in addition to recent cuts in past years of more than 60 fleet vehicles.

While our focus is squarely on providing our customers exceptional service, we are also committed to creating added value for our community. The budget includes nearly $13 million to repair flood damage following the Waldo Canyon fire and to protect critical utility infrastructure from destructive storm events.

The preliminary budget also includes a $31.1 million payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) to the municipal government. Over the past 10 years, these PILT contributions to the city’s general fund total more than $265 million.

In addition, we will continue to help our community parks use water more efficiently and provide innovative business solutions to help attract, retain and create local jobs and support our regional economy.

As a citizen-owned utility, our budget process is very transparent. Please review the entire budget and operating plan at www.csu.org. You can also watch Utilities Board meetings online or attend in person to share your comments.

Colorado Springs Utilities is proud to have served our community for nearly a century. As a hometown utility, we understand the needs and values of our citizen-owners and customers.

For us, providing dependable service day and night is extra-rewarding because we are solely focused on meeting the needs of our friends, neighbors and families, while creating economic opportunities right here in Colorado Springs.

Bruce McCormick is the Chief Energy Services Officer for Colorado Springs Utilities.