News

City approves water/sewer rate increase

by MATTHEW NASH
Sequim Gazette

Sewer and water rates are going up with the City of Sequim’s approved 2012 budget.

 

Councilors voted for the $20.6 million budget Monday night including a 2-percent increase in sewer and water rates starting Jan. 1, 2012.

 

For single-family residences, sewer fees will cost $1.06 to $1.22 per month and 54 cents more for water per month. The city would take in about $96,000 in revenues from the fees with the increase helping pay for the expansion of the water reclamation plant and maintaining the new Albert Haller Playfields.

 

People in single-family residences still can apply for a low-income discount, but multi-family customers must wait for staff to find a better solution for factoring a reduction.

 

Councilor Bill Huizinga voted against ordinances for the budget, for the rates and fees and a resolution not to increase the property tax levy by 1-percent.

 

Huizinga said voting not to increase the levy by 1-percent was a mistake and that with the rate of inflation at about 3.6 percent, the city needs to keep up as much as it can year-to-year.

 

The city’s assessed valuation of nearly $1.3 million from the Clallam County Assessor’s Office in 2011 would have brought in nearly $13,000 in 2012. The unlevied 1-percent property tax can be withheld and collected later from citizens. Huizinga and Ted Miller expressed interest in approving the levy increase for 2013’s budget so as not to impose a significant increase on citizens in the future.

 

Councilor Don Hall’s suggestion to not pay $6,000 for a facilitator for the council’s annual planning retreat and to put the money back in the general fund passed 3-2, with Ken Hays and Ted Miller opposed.

 

City Manager Steve Burkett said keeping the facilitator would keep the meetings more productive and the $6,000 is minimal compared to the overall budget. Hays wanted more opportunity to brainstorm on council goals and priorities.

 

Councilors agreed to  hold a planning session in-house instead.

 

Within the balanced budget there are one-time expenses worth $130,000 for training a replacement for the city’s retiring mechanic and to cover the fringe benefits and replacements for two police officers deployed to Afghanistan.

 

All nonuniformed employees voted not to take a pay increase in 2012, whereas police sergeants contractually receive a 3-percent salary increase and officers a 2-percent increase.

 

The city’s overall costs went up 14.8 percent for Public Employees’ Retirement System contributions, while Labor and Industries costs rose 17 percent and health insurance 11 percent.

Capital projects

Next year, 31 citywide capital projects total about $5.3 million.

 

Paul Haines, public works director, said in January that four master plans are budgeted for transportation ($50,000), sewer ($70,000), water ($50,000) and stormwater ($60,000) would be under way in early 2012. He said these plans hold a lot of significance and will support the city’s update to their comprehensive plan.

 

“It’ll help us look at the topic of impact fees, have a refreshed look at utility rates we charge, as well as how we can maybe provide some regional service such as wastewater,” Haines said.

 

Roadways are set for improvement including $300,000 for pavement rehabilitation and $90,000 for pedestrian roadways.

 

Haines said the city is finishing up its maintenance pavement management project, which categorizes the city’s 54 miles of roads to see how money should be spent annually and what should be accomplished first. This is independent of the transportation master plan.

 

Several other projects are set for construction, (see box) including $788,000 for West

Sequim Bay improvements with most coming from grants and $46,000 from the Transportation Benefit District.

 

Purchasing the land for the new city hall comes from a separate account other than the 2012 budget except for $100,000 for land purchase engineering.

 

The Transportation Benefit District pays for $426,000 in projects including rehabilitation of North Seventh Avenue, $100,000 for signalizing the intersection of Sequim Avenue and Fir Street, $90,000 for pedestrian pathways, $30,000 toward $100,000 for the completion of the Sequim portion of the Olympic Discovery Trail, and $30,000 for the Transportation Master Plan.

 

Contact the City of Sequim, 152 W. Cedar St., at 683-4139 or visit www.sequimwa.gov.
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