News

Council approves 2011 utility rate increases

Low-income discount takes up to 50 percent off utility rate

by MATTHEW NASH
Sequim Gazette


City councilors approved portions of the 2011 budget before the power went out on Monday night due to high winds downing power lines.

Final budget approval has been rescheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 6, at Sequim Transit Center.

Councilors approved a 2-percent sewer rate increase and a 2-percent utility tax increase on water, sewer and garbage. The sewer increase helps pay for the $11 million upgrade to the wastewater reclamation system and the tax supports the general fund.

For a typical single-family residential ratepayer, the increases would be about $1.20 per month.
City staff said they expect to receive $185,000 from the rate and tax bumps, along with increases from a growing city population.

The utility tax and sewer rate increases passed 5-2, with counselors Susan Lorenzen and Erik Erichsen opposed.

Guy Cole Center

Lorenzen expressed interest in lowering the rent at Guy Cole Center in Carrie Blake Park to create more interest and revenue.

“I can’t believe the number of people who say they can’t use Guy Cole because it costs so much,” Lorenzen said.

The motion was made and approved 4-3, with Mayor Pro Tem Laura Dubois, Mayor Ken Hays and Don Hall opposed, to lower the rate for nonprofits to $50 for one to four hours and $125 for kitchen use. Other renters will pay $100 for one to four hours, $175 for five or more hours, kitchen $150 and deposit $150.
City staff said annual revenue from the building is about $10,000.

Low-income utility discount

Sequim residents can apply through the end of January for a limited number of low-income utility discounts. Councilors approved the concept 6-1, with Erichsen opposed, that gives up to 50 percent off the base rate for water and sewer to a single-family residence. City staff was given until the end of March to put together a discount plan for residents in a multi-family dwelling.

To qualify, a household maximum income cannot exceed $25,000 or have a total household asset level exceeding $150,000.

The city is using Clallam County Public Utility District’s criteria except the city’s includes all low-income customers rather than only senior citizens. Residents must show they are receiving a PUD discount to qualify. For 2011, $31,580 in discounts is available with $12,740 available both for single-family and multi-family residents, and $6,370 for late qualifiers.

Applicants must re-qualify each year and if accepted will receive a credit on their bill.

Those who abuse the system would face criminal prosecution.

Property taxes hold

Councilors unanimously decided to hold off for a year on increasing the property tax levy the 1 percent allowed by state law. It would have brought in about $12,600. Money will be collected in the future at a better economic time. Karen Goschen, city administrative services director, said in the future the amount might not calculate to a 2-percent increase because the amount is based on assessed valuations of property. She said they could implement the increase when there’s a lower unemployment rate.

This withholding of funds is exclusive of additional revenues from new construction and annexations and any changes in value of state-assessed property and refunds made estimated at $35,300.

For more information, contact Sequim City Hall, 152 W. Cedar St., at 683-4139.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.
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