Libby may change how it calculates sewer rate

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Faced with ongoing sewer department deficits, the City of Libby is reconsidering how it calculates sewer rates.

The City Council’s Water/Sewer Committee, comprised of councilors Brian Zimmerman, Gary Beach and Rob Dufficy, discussed the issue at a meeting on Oct. 19.

The current sewer rate is based on an average of usage from October through December, a period of lower use than the rest of the year.

Libby is one of the few Montana communities, if not the only one, that sets the sewer rate this way, City Clerk and Treasurer Audray McCollum told committee members.

She said the city faces a $36,000 deficit in the sewer fund this year, even after the discovery and correction of a software billing glitch.

In addition to charging a rate that doesn’t account for periods of high use, McCollum said other factors contributing to the deficit include higher costs following additional Montana Department of Environmental Quality testing requirements and recent wage and workers compensation increases.

The committee discussed alternatives including charging for actual usage or taking an average from higher-demand months.

The committee also floated the idea of a yearly increase similar to a cost of living increase.

As a next step, the committee agreed to request the past few years of actual usage rates from Black Mountain Software, which provides Libby’s accounting and billing software.

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