SEQUIM — Sequim city residents can anticipate a nominal increase in utility bills starting next year following the Sequim City Council’s approval of next year’s $37.9 million budget.
Sue Hagener, Sequim director of administrative services, said most households will see about a 50 cent increase each month with a 6 percent water utility rate increase and 2 percent sewer rate decrease.
After months of discussions, city council members approved the 2019 budget unanimously on Nov. 26 and voted 5-1 for next year’s rates and fees — with Brandon Janisse opposed and Ted Miller excused.
The changes continue to follow a 2013 utility rates study that proposes a 4 percent increase in both water and sewer annually unless costs are met through various factors such as population growth.
Hagener told the City Council that sewer rates are being reduced because of the growing number of homes connecting to sewer, whereas water isn’t seeing the same amount of growth.
The city is connecting homes that have been on septic systems as well as new homes to sewer services at a faster rate than people are signing up for water services.
She said city staff plan to contract for another utility rate study in 2020.
A low-income discount remains available for individuals at the Sequim Civic Center, 152 W. Cedar St.
Along with the utility changes, city council members approved a 1 percent property tax levy increase on households allowed by law, equalling about $13,000 to $14,000 more each year for the city.
Residents 61 years and older and disabled residents making $35,000 or less per year are eligible for exemptions for the tax increase.
City staff anticipate next year’s revenue at about $10.4 million in the general fund could be up about 4-5 percent from this year. City council members approved various one-time positions/projects such as a part-time art coordinator, a lobbyist for efforts on US Highway 101 improvements (up to $36,000), establishing a budget for a hearing examiner ($25,000), and increased code compliance activities.
As discussed for a few years, construction is expected to begin in early 2019 on Fir Street by Sequim School District with about $2.4 budgeted by the city from various sources.
The project will take about 18 months, and city council members unanimously approved purchasing the necessary right-of-way for the project.
Fir Street and several other 2019 capital projects amount to about $6.3 million.
A few capital projects include:
• $33,000 to install a mechanical filtering odor device at the Water Reclamation Facility.
• $50,000 to conduct a parks Impact Fee Study.
• $100,000 to complete breakout rooms in the Guy Cole Event Center.
• $150,000 to coordinate traffic lights on Washington Street.
• $219,000 (from grants) for upgrading the stormwater drainage at the southwest corner of Seventh Avenue and Washington Street.
• $88,000 to redirect and treat storm drains before reentering Bell Creek on North Brown Road.
• $561,000 for pavement rehabilitation (Transportation Benefit District funds).
• $836,000 for a new Doe Run lift station bringing sewage of Bell Hill to Fox Hollow Road.
The city also will pay off $3.6 million in sewer debt for the water pollution control at the Water Reclamation Facility, which saves the city about $476,000 in interest fees.
Next year, the city plans to add the equivalent of 4.77 full-time employees by hiring another police officer, an administrative assistant for Public Works and Department of Community Development, an associate engineer, a maintenance project worker and a seasonal public works at the Water Reclamation Facility.
The city has begun recruiting for a part-time arts coordinator to support for the City Arts Advisory Commission.
With the changes, salaries and benefits are anticipated to go up from $8.2 million to $9 million in 2019.
City staff continue health and human service contracts at $75,000 while allocating $30,000 formerly used to support the YMCA of Sequim for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula and Shipley Center with amounts to be determined. Staff plan to solicit human service agencies soon for possible contracts.
For more on the city’s budget, visit www.sequim wa.gov or call 360-683-4139.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].