OGDEN -- The city hopes spare change taken from residents' water bills will help local high school students on their path toward higher education.
The Ogden City Council is considering a proposal to fund a scholarship program by skimming small amounts of money from residents' monthly water and utility bills.
Under the proposal, utility bills would be rounded up to the next dollar, with all proceeds in excess of the actual bill going toward the scholarship program.
For example, a utility bill of $64.32 would be rounded up to $65. The additional 68 cents would be used to fund the program.
The program would be an opt-out program, in which all customers would be enrolled automatically and would remain in the program unless they contact the city to specifically request not to participate.
Customers could opt out at any time.
Currently, the city has more than 20,300 water-utility accounts.
Janene Eller-Smith, a policy analyst for the city council, said officials estimate that an opt-out program would generate about $112,500 annually, while an opt-in program would generate only about $22,500.
In work sessions, city council members have expressed concern that some customers may not understand they can opt out at any time and that some may resent having to opt out.
Eller-Smith said an extensive public information campaign before starting the program would inform customers about their options.
The city has several public meetings planned in the spring for a water-rate study, and Eller-Smith said the scholarship meetings could coincide with those.
Under the proposal, scholarships would be available to every student who graduates from a high school in Ogden. There will be no academic or income requirements.
Scholarship amounts would be determined by the available pool of money divided by the number of graduating high school students.
The scholarship would be administered by Ogden United, a group of Ogden School District officials and other community leaders, and by the United Way of Northern Utah.
"We think there are a lot of reasons why (the scholarship) would be helpful," said Bob Hunter, United Way of Northern Utah chief executive officer and a member of the Ogden United board.
"It demonstrates to every teacher, student and administrator that education is a priority."