MISSOULA — Swapping out Missoula’s old street lights with new LED fixtures will enable the city to keep the annual assessments passed on to property owners flat this fiscal year, city officials said Monday night.
It will also prompt the city to analyze several options this year – whether the savings in energy costs should be used to lower assessments or go to expand the city’s lighting fixtures to fill gaps in the system.
The lighting assessments are levied annually to pay electric costs. The city’s primary Road District pays 10% of those costs, but property owners foot the remaining 90%, according to city clerk Marty Rehbein.
While NorthWestern Energy is expected to increase lighting fees this year, the savings netted from the LED conversion will keep the assessments passed on to property owners flat.
“This year, we do anticipate a 1.5% increase in street lighting district rates from NorthWestern Energy. But they’re also installing LED lights around the city,” Rehbein said. “We did realize some savings, and this year’s assessment is exactly the same as last year. It will be $368,000.”
NorthWestern Energy and the city reached an agreement last year to begin the LED conversion, which was projected to save the city $80,000 annually in electrical costs.
The resolution levying this year’s assessments directs Public Works to complete an analysis of the savings and look at areas lacking adequate street lighting. The savings could be used to fill those gaps, Rehbein said.
“Public works did a brief analysis of the coverage of our lighting districts and found that house to house and block to block, the coverage is not consistent,” she said. “They want to do an analysis to see if any of the savings can further the instillation of fixtures, as well as LED bulbs.”
Missoula’s 59 active street lighting districts were created between 1912 and 1995, the city has said. They’ve seen little change over the years and no new districts have been created in more than 20 years.
While savings from the LED conversion could expand the city’s lighting districts, it could also be used to lower the assessments paid by property owners.
“Ultimately, reduced energy rates can provide more services or reduce the amount of the assessments,” Rehbein said. “We’re looking at staff to present that analysis early next year prior to doing assessments for FY23.”