Oregon is looking at increasing the sanitary sewer rates next year to help cover the cost of sanitary sewer maintenance lines.
The issue came up during council’s discussion at a committee of the whole meeting on Monday of the annual assessment for the owners’ share of the cost of maintaining sanitary sewer lines, pipes, and conduits at a total of $189,809.10 in 2011.
“That figure doesn’t actually represent the whole amount of the cost to service those lines,” said Mayor Mike Seferian.
The city may want to look at increasing sanitary sewer rates next year so that it significantly covers the cost of sanitary sewer line maintenance, he added.
“We would like the rates to be a total revenue account so that it significantly covers the costs of the sanitary sewer line maintenance. We’ve had the same rates since 1982. So you know the costs have to come up,” he said.
Costs divided by the amount of usage, he added, should cover expenses, but “we are supplementing that with taxpayers’ dollars.”
“In a perfect world, that might sound right,” he added. “But there may be some people who don’t have sanitary sewers that are in essence subsidizing that figure. Maybe for next year, it’s something we could look at.
Currently, nearly half of the maintenance cost is subsidized by the general fund.
“That’s not really a good practice,” said Councilman Sandy Bihn.
“The way we’ve looked at things in the past,” said Public Service Director Paul Roman, “income tax has paid towards capital improvements, and the sewer rates were to cover operating and maintenance. To be fair, if we want to keep it that way, I really think these rates should be looked at to make sure it covers all operating, just like all other sewer rates cover wastewater treatment operations.”
Bihn suggested supplementing the cost from the operations fund as opposed to the general fund.
“If we don’t want to charge on a per front foot basis, we could just charge it to operations and then let it roll into that. Why wouldn’t we look at that as perhaps a piece of this?” asked Bihn.
“First of all, we are going to look at our entire rate structure because we have other wastewater plant improvements that we will be dealing with in the near future,” said Roman. “We will be looking at all sewer rates. In past years, the actual expenses were actually more than what was being assessed. This is just one more item that will be looked at along with other sewer rates that we currently have.”
Seferian said there are several ways to fund maintenance of the sewer lines.
“We’ve grown out of the system that we currently use so we have to come up with a better one. I think it can be done fairly easily. Just which funding sources do we choose to use? It probably will end up being a combination of the sewer rate structure and the water/sewer revenue fund. It’s something we can do. We probably should have looked at it years ago, but now we have to look at it pretty quickly,” said Seferian.
“I would like to have a meeting on this and try to figure out where we’re at and where we’re going,” said Bihn. “I think it’s a bad practice to charge to the general fund. How we choose to bill it, whether it comes from the operating expenses or additional assessments, is something we can all talk about. The way it’s structured now is incorrect. Maybe in the next month, we can call a meeting and start a conversation.”
“I totally agree. It’s an outdated, bad practice,” said Seferian.
Other special assessments that council will consider on Monday include:
• The special assessment for the cost and expense of cutting and destroying noxious weeds in 2011, which totals $10,087.50.
• Unpaid water and sewer accounts in 2011 for a total of $4,053.48.
• Lighting streets and public ways in 2011 for a total of $302,571.78.
• Maintaining drainage facilities in Heritage Estates, Park Place, Hickory Shores, Cardinal Estates, The Vineyard, The Drake, Foxgate, Bay Meadows, and Parkgelande subdivisions for 2011 for a total of $14,005.94.