|Brookings City Council OKs fee hikes for sewer, water and trash|
|Written by Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer|
|June 01, 2012 08:25 pm|
Brookings residents will see a bit of sticker shock when they receive their water, trash and sewer bills starting July 1.
The City Council approved the increase Tuesday night as part of its $18,425,066 budget for 2012-2013.
Water users will see a 9.8 percent increase, sewer bills will increase 8.5 percent, and trash and recycling pickup services will increase 2.53 percent.
It means monthly residential water rates will increase to $10.75, plus $2.33 for each 100 cubic feet of water used. Sewer rates will increase to a flat fee of $55.25 a month.
The changes will result in a property tax rate of $3.763 per $1,000 assessed valuation, and is expected to generate $2.23 million. For example, owners of a house assessed at $100,000 would pay $376 in annual property taxes.
City revenue has decreased due to the weak economy and fewer construction starts, which has resulted in a 20 percent deficit for the water distribution system.
The council plans to make up that shortfall over a three-year period, rather than hit taxpayers all at once.
“Next year we’ll probably see a similar increase,” said City Manager Gary Milliman. “We don’t want to rely on SDCs (system development charges), and we don’t want to make that hit all at once.”
In the past, system development charges on new construction had covered most of the city’s debt payments.
The water revenue will be used to make payments on the $4 million loan the city received to improve pumping capabilities from the Chetco River and to replace water mains that have failed in the past few years.
The budget committee has had to make numerous decisions to create a balanced budget, which is required by state law.
Last year, the city laid off two utility employees and did not replace one who left. Employees received no salary increase.
The city will use $200,000 in SDC funds to lessen the impact on rates, but that money won’t be available next year.
Other cost-cutting actions will include reducing the city’s workforce, primarily by attrition.
Brookings Fire Chief Bill Sharp’s position will not be filled after he retires in January; nor will Dianne Morris’s planning director position when she retires at the end of June 2012.
The Public Works and Planning departments will be merged, and Public Works Director Loree Pryce will take over.
The police and fire departments will also be merged and renamed the Public Safety Department, with Police Chief Chris Wallace at the helm.
Only two full-time firefighting positions remain in the budget, again requiring the skills of volunteers to fill the ranks.
The city will not replace Parks Foreman Dave Lentz who retired this year, and will instead contract with private businesses to maintain city parks and landscaping. Paid fire assistants, among others, will also be assigned to some landscape maintenance duties.
A new position – Parks and Technical Services Supervisor – will oversee maintenance contracts, help with construction project plans, prepare grant applications, organize volunteer projects, supervise the municipal pool and provide support to the citys Parks and Recreation Commission.
Employees’ pay and benefits dodged the budget-cutting axe.
All employees will receive a 3 percent cost of living increase and will contribute 7 percent to their insurance premium. That will increase to 10 percent in 2014.
Other budget highlights include $1.88 million for water, sewer, storm drain and street improvements and $350,000 for a new 911 facility.
Improvements slated throughout town include tennis court lighting at Bud Cross Park, reconstruction of Hassett Street between Pioneer Road and Seventh Street, water and sewer main replacements and installing a sidewalk next to the elementary school.
The council also approved the Urban Renewal Agency’s $2.6 million budget to make improvements to Railroad Street and possibly the North Bank Chetco River Road sewer extension project.
Urban renewal funds are derived from new development’s property taxes.
“It continues to be a challenge to fund all the necessary and desired programs to meet the community’s needs, comply with state and federal mandates and make progress toward city council goals.” said Janell Howard, administrative services director. “We’re always looking to identify cost-saving ideas or grant fund opportunities.”