Proposed sewer and water rate increases for 2013 are now fact.
So are initial plans for developing the new city hall, multiple projects and performance-based salary increases for some employees.
Sequim city councilors approved the city’s $27.2 million budget on a 6-1 vote, with Erik Erichsen opposed, on Monday, Nov. 26, including a 4-percent water and 3-percent sewer rate increase beginning in 2013.
The performance-based salary increases could benefit 21 non-union employees, mostly department heads. They will begin paying 10 percent toward the city’s insurance plan, generating about $30,000 for the city. The budget includes $50,000 for the salary increases.
Increases for utilities add about $1.09 per month to single-family homes for water, and between $1.61-$1.87 for sewer depending on usage. Last year, rates went up 2 percent and city staff expect the 2013 increase to generate about $175,000 in revenue. Utility discounts continue for low-income people with applications at City Hall.
Councilors Erichsen and Dennis Smith opposed raising rates when voting on the new fees portion for the 2013 budget.
Erichsen maintained his stance of opposing the city awarding contracts for health and human service agencies like the Boys & Girls Club. He said it felt backwards to give to charities and raise rates for rate payers.
Smith said he and many others are on a fixed income and that people would be willing to step up to help these agencies rather than the city.
“This isn’t the time to put additional costs on the people,” he said.
Included with the fees is a $100 permit for a mobile food service vendor; an increase from $100 to $162 for renting the community banner on West Washington Street; and new fee structures for renting the Guy Cole Center, the James Center for Performing Arts and the Transit Center. These include a $75 administration fee, hourly rates at each site, a $250 refundable deposit for the Guy Cole Center kitchen and a 10-percent hourly discount for in-city residents.
Councilor Don Hall approved the fees saying, “Things are tough but if people want to use our facilities, they need to pay for them.”
City staff have designated the utility increases to help pay for the new city hall’s water and sewer infrastructure, alleviate increasing costs of electricity and chemicals the city uses for these utilities and help retire the debt remaining on the water treatment plant’s upgrade.
Councilors also approved a 1-percent property tax levy increase that would bring the city about $13,160 for general services based on the Clallam County Assessor’s Office assessed valuation of homes in the city.
Erichsen opposed this, too.
“A tax increase is a tax increase,” he said. “A majority of people here are on fixed incomes. Taking our money is not appropriate.”
With these rate increases, the city has seen its sales tax revenue decline significantly this year from what staff projected. They expect about $2.15 million to $2.2 million in sales tax by the end of the year, which is down from the past two years.
Administrative Services Director Elray Konkel said November was the first month to come in as projected.
To accommodate for the downturn, they estimate general fund revenues to be down about $269,000 or 3.2 percent and a cut in expenses of $396,000 or 4.8 percent.
The $27.2 million budget includes a balanced $8 million general fund and several projects dependent on grants.
The city’s largest project — the city hall/police station — remains on track at an estimated cost between $11-$14 million.
Konkel said the city plans to solicit in the next week for design and construction management services to find a project manager to coordinate design and construction of the project.
Next year’s 2013 capital projects, including finding the management team for the city hall/police station project ($774,000), totals about $4.45 million in citywide projects.