By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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Nobody from the public spoke at the first hearing Tuesday night on the 2014 spending plan, which is inflated by the costs of constructing a new building to house City Hall and the Sequim Police Department.
City Manager Steve Burkett told the council that he planned to replace a 4 percent rate increase for water and sewer into the draft budget so the council could discuss it.
He said the proposed increase, which had been part of the original budget but which he had removed, seemed to have support from a special utility rate committee, said Mayor Ken Hays on Thursday.
Nov. 25 meeting
The council will discuss the potential increase, as well as resume the hearing on the budget, at its Nov. 25 meeting. It will meet at 6 p.m. at the Sequim Transit Center, 190 W. Cedar St.
If the rates are raised, then staff in subsequent years would work to adjust rates so they are more equitable among different users, Hays said.
Burkett said a consensus from the committee was that the city needs to make “structural changes to our rates” to ensure all users pay for what they use.
“We need 4 percent more revenue, there’s no doubt about that,” said Councilman Ted Miller, a member of the utility committee.
“It’s just a matter of how we get it.”
Miller said a 2.5 percent increase would be offset by inflation and would not generate extra revenue needed for future improvements to utility structures.
A study earlier this year found the city needs $11 million in improvements to its water system and $15 million to the sewer system by 2032.
Some classes of water users are paying less than it costs the city to deliver water, Miller said.
The budget proposal includes a 1 percent increase in the city’s property tax levy.
Administrative Director Elray Konkel said the “nominal increase” would generate an additional $13,000 for the city in 2014 at an increase of $4 to $5 to the property tax levy for the average Sequim homeowner.
The council also was presented with a budget for the special transportation benefit district formed to administer the 0.2 percent transportation sales tax instituted last year.
The tax is expected to generate $543,000.
The city plans to use $100,000 for safety enhancement and for street maintenance and operations, $275,000 for improvements on Fir Street, $50,000 to engineer signals and roads, $25,000 to improve Etta Street and $25,000 to upgrade streetlights to LEDs.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.