CEDAR FALLS — The board of trustees Wednesday approved a $95 million budget for Cedar Falls Utilities and set rates for 2020.
Combined water, electricity and natural gas bills will rise just under $3 per month for the city’s average household during the year starting Jan. 1. Cable TV rates will increase $3 or $7 per month, depending on the service plan.
Prices are not changing for business or residential internet and phone service. However, CFU broadband internet is expected to get faster soon.
“We’re pretty excited about this,” said Steve Bernard, the utility’s general manager. “We’re going to be upgrading speeds in January for all of our tiers.”
The lowest broadband speed will increase from 100 to 250 megabits per second. At the other end, CFU’s top speed will grow from 1 gigabit per second (equal to 1,000 mbps) to 10 gbps.
Bernard noted that when CFU first offered broadband in 1997, customers could get 3 mbps. He expects this latest upgrade to be made by the end of January.
Wynette Froehner, director of financial and organizational services, outlined rate increases in the individual utilities. The “average overall” boost in electric rates will be 1.7%, she said, raising an estimated $454,674 more in revenues for the year and keeping pace with a small increase in operating costs.
The average residential customer will see an 83-cent increase in the monthly base rate to $57.52. Monthly base rates grow to $79.43 for all-electric residential customers and $115.66 for farm customers. Monthly rates will grow to $383.53 for commercial property customers and $6,999.63 for industrial.
Natural gas rates will grow by an average of 2%, with an estimated $113,332 increase in revenues. That’s a 50-cent rise in the average household’s monthly bill, to $23.07. Monthly base rates will grow to $91.97 for commercial and $836.60 for industrial customers.
Water rates will increase 7.4%, generating an estimated $311,969 more in revenues. The average household will pay $1.64 more per month, or $21.38. Monthly base rates will grow to $59.71 for commercial and $138.25 for industrial customers.
Officials noted CFU is in the midst of several large-scale projects to replace mains in conjunction with city street projects. “While we never like to have rate increases, these are pretty modest,” said Bernard.
Cable TV rates will grow by 8%. Monthly fees will range from $38 to $134.50 depending on the level and number of services.
Cedar Falls’ rates across all its utilities are among the lowest in Iowa based on the current year, according to a CFU statement.
“In 2019, a typical Cedar Falls household saved $933 on the combined price of electric, gas, water, TV and internet services, compared with the average cost in 20 peer communities in Iowa,” said the statement. “That adds up to $12.6 million in annual community utility and broadband cost savings.”
Among projections for future years, CFU shows a 14.9% boost in cable fees for 2021. Bernard explained that they will need to negotiate re-transmission rights with local network affiliates before the next year.
“This is anticipating another round of pretty high increases,” he said. “We’re hoping it’s not that much.”
Froehner said the current year’s budget for all four utilities, published at $93.31 million a year ago, has been re-forecast at $91.96 million. “The total expenditures are down $1.3 million,” she said. The 2020 budget is 3.31% higher than the re-forecast numbers for this year.
For 2020, the electric utility budget is $56.71 million; $13.12 million for the gas utility; $6.16 million for the water utility; and $19.72 million for the communications utility.