Toward the end of the first Crescent City Council meeting of 2018, Mayor Blake Inscore told staff that something needed to be done to “address the ongoing financial situation of our sewer fund.”
Inscore noted the last adopted sewer rate increase took effect in July 2014 and asked city staff to look research a modest increase based on the consumer price index.
“I know we had a failed attempt at consideration regarding sewer rates with consumption-based and those things have been put on hold as we continue to address how do we best serve our community,” Inscore said. “At the same time the cost of doing business for every entity, public and private, has continued to increase.”
In 2016, a majority of voters defeated Measure Q, which would have created a consumption-based sewer rate system. In July 2014, the city passed a 3.6 percent increase in monthly sewer rates.
Eric Wier, Crescent City’s new interim city manager, noted that in addition to rising costs in general, the debt service the city pays on a state revolving loan that paid for upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant increases by $100,000 each year.
At the end of the 2015-16 fiscal year, the city’s loan payment was $1.1 million, Wier said. Last fiscal year it was $1.2 million. This year the city’s debt service will be $1.3 million.
“It goes up $100,000 per year until it maxes out on June 30, 2022 and it’s just shy of $1.7 million,” Wier said Wednesday. “It carries through until 2041. It’s a 30-year 0 percent interest loan.”
Sewer rates are the main source of revenue for the sewer fund, Wier said.
Inscore noted Western states saw about a 2.7 percent consumer price index increase. He said he’d like staff to begin the process of addressing the city’s current sewer rate structure without changing it materially.
“But simply saying we need an increase in revenue after almost four years and to start maybe with that 2.7 number and say we need to work with something to increase revenues so we can continue to provide services,” Inscore said.
Inscore’s colleagues on the Crescent City Council concurred with his statement and added that approaching a potential rate increase based on the consumer price index is a “fair way to go about it.”
Crescent City Councilor Jason Greenough said he advocated for Measure Q although it didn’t pass.
“We just need to buckle down and take care of our sewer and our water systems,” he said. “We don’t appreciate them until they’re not there.”
Councilor Alex Fallman pointed out the board hasn’t had a discussion about sewer rates since he, Greenough and Heidi Kime were elected.
“I think it’s time we really zero in on that area of public policy,” Fallman said.
In other matters, the council unanimously approved changes to its fee schedule. This included increasing a fee the city is required to collect for each business license from $1 to $4. According to Linda Leaver, the city’s finance director, the fee increase will be used to increase disability access and will last through Dec. 31, 2023.
Leaver said the city exempts 35 businesses, primarily nonprofits, from paying the fee. The council decided that those businesses would continue to be exempt despite the increase.
Another change to the fee schedule included adding a fee of $70 to cover fingerprinting and background checks for taxicab drivers.
The Crescent City Council also bid farewell to its outgoing interim city manager Michael Young and approved an interim city manager agreement with Wier.
Reach Jessica Cejnar at email@example.com.