Water, sewer rate hikes on agenda

The Ashland City Council will consider whether to raise water rates by 10 percent and boost sewer rates by 20 percent.

The council meets at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the Ashland Civic Center, 1175 E. Main St.

The combined rate increases would cost a typical family of four in a 1,500 square foot house with landscaping an average of about $6.60 more each month, city staff estimated.

Mild summer weather has reduced water sales, and the economic recession has cut into the city's sales tax on restaurant meals and beverages, said Ashland Finance and Administrative Services Director Lee Tuneberg.

Most of the food and beverage tax is used to make debt payments for past upgrades to Ashland's sewage treatment plant.

Tuneberg said he realizes that the proposed rate increases will cause concern.

"Everyone looks at the percentages and asks, 'How can you do that in this economy?' Water sales are flat and food and beverage revenues are flat or going down," he said.

Tuneberg added, "Water and wastewater have tremendous overhead. We don't generate enough revenue to cover costs. If dollars are not coming through the door, you still have to make the debt payments."

Ashland's rates are relatively low compared to the rest of the state, although some communities in the Rogue Valley have even lower rates, he said.

The rate increases will generate $400,000 more each year for the city's water fund and $555,000 more for the wastewater fund, according to a memo from Tuneberg to the City Council.

In other business

In other business Tuesday night, the council will consider whether to:

  • approve a $6.17 million list of capital improvement projects for the coming fiscal year, down from this year's $11.07 million list;
  • direct the Ashland Police Department to apply for a federal stimulus grant to cover a community policing officer for three years, although the grant requires the city to maintain staffing levels after the grant expires;
  • seek proposals for use of an 846-acre piece of city-owned land across Interstate 5 from Ashland;
  • and create a program that would allow development rights from property to be transfered to other land where increased density would be allowed;

For a complete list of agenda items and details on each item, visit http://ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=11684.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.

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