Drop in university utility rates is good news for tight budgets

Most university utility rates will decrease slightly when the new fiscal year starts in July, giving colleges and auxiliary units a break on their monthly bills.

Jeff Witt, utilities director, said FY19 rates finalized last week will lower the cost of electricity by 3.2 percent, chilled water used for cooling by 3.5 percent, and water and sewer by 2 percent. Charges for steam used to heat buildings will remain the same, he said.

Utility rates are reviewed every year, but it's somewhat unusual for rates to decrease, Witt said. They were steady from 2014 to 2016 and dropped in FY17 before increasing for the current year, he said.

"It's good news for the university in a tight budget time, obviously," he said.

Electric and chilled water rates fell because the cost of fuels used in the power plant's boilers -- natural gas and coal -- continue to be low, Witt said. The increased efficiency of three new natural gas boilers that began operating in early 2016 also have helped drive down energy costs, he said.

Water and sewer rates are decreasing because water prices have been lower than expected since the city's new treatment plant opened in August, Witt said.