Water rate increase proposed for 2017 Sequim budget

The 2016 budget totaled $28.1 million and included increases of 3 percent for water and 2.5 percent for sewer totaling about $2.84 more a month for average users.

SEQUIM — Utility rate increases and reallocating staff across departments are part of a proposed $30 million 2017 budget for the city of Sequim.

City Manager Charlie Bush and Sue Hagener, administrative services director, presented an overview of the budget Monday, with Bush saying priorities include determining whether to approve a 1 percent tax levy increase, various capital projects and a proposed water utility rate increase of 2 percent.

The 2016 budget totaled $28.1 million and included increases of 3 percent for water and 2.5 percent for sewer totaling about $2.84 more a month for average users.

For 2017, Bush suggests a 2 percent increase for water services but no increase for sewer customers.

The water increase is needed because it’s “important to maintain the financial health of our utility operations and to meet our current and future debt service requirements, while also maintaining our target reserve levels,” Bush said in his budget message.

Rate increases in recent years have been based on a 2013 study suggesting a 4 percent increase of water and sewer rates over six years.

Hagener said revenues are up this year, leading to an approximate 5 percent proposed increase in the 2017 general fund from this year at about $239,000.

Of the city’s projected $30 million budget, capital projects make up 22 percent, or $6.6 million with $1.6 million set for street projects, $539,000 to park projects, $2.3 million to water projects, $1.7 million to sewer projects and about $68,000 to facilities.

The Transportation Benefit District is budgeted to see about $255,000 worth of projects next year, with $104,000 proposed for pavement rehabilitation, $71,000 to constructing a Third Avenue bike lane from U.S. Highway 101 to Fir Street and various other projects.

Bush said city staff continues to analyze City Council goals each budget season, and in 2017, they are two years away from fully funding equipment reserves.

“For a small city, it’s really a big accomplishment,” he said. “It’ll make us that much more sustainable and able to deliver higher-quality services.”

Next year, city administration proposes increasing staffing by 1.24 full-time employees to 76.78, which Hagener said is a result of reallocating staff and sharing resources.

They’ve proposed creating a few new positions including a Department of Community Development specialist and part-time temporary project manager.

Hagener said they’ve proposed reallocating several positions, which results in a change of less than half of a full-time position resulting in the net increase of 1.24 full-time equivalents.

Total staff salaries come to $5.4 million and $2.4 million for benefits with an expected overall wages increase of 1.4 percent and benefits up 3.5 percent.

Included in the salary increases are planned raises for the non-uniformed bargaining unit at a ¾ percent increase, police sergeants at a 2 percent increase, police officers at a 1 percent increase and non-represented staff at a 1.5 percent increase.

• City staff plan to continue contracts with different agencies such as $80,100 with the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Visitor Information Center from lodging tax funds, $75,000 for human services contracts such as with the Sequim unit of the Boys &Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula and $30,000 for the YMCA of Sequim.

• The city plans to continue paying off its debt at $665,000 for the Sequim Civic Center’s construction.

• City staff propose raising general facility charges by $250.

• All service-related fees are proposed to increase by 2 percent, but rental fees are encouraged to go down to promote use.

For those in need of help, the city plans to continue its low-income discount for utilities. Applications are available through the Sequim Civic Center, Department of Social and Health Services, Sequim Community Aid, St. Vincent de Paul, Serenity House, United Way, Shipley Center and on the city’s website at www.sequimwa.gov. For more information, call 360-683-4139.

City staff plan to cover the departmental budgets Oct. 10 and 24, with public hearings set Nov. 14 and 28 with the council tentatively adopting the budget at the last hearing.

For more information, visit the city’s website or call City Hall.

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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 mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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Terry Ward, publisher of the Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum, serves on the Olympic Peninsula YMCA board of directors.

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