City seeks public input on proposed increases

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PRIEST RIVER — City officials are encouraging residents to attend next week’s meeting, as it includes public hearings and resolutions for proposed rate increases for city utilities and the fiscal year 2020 budget.

The proposed rate increases include $2.14 for water and $3.43 for wastewater, for a total of $5.57. The current bill for city residents who use 12,000 gallons of water or less is $100.60, so if the increase is approved, utility bills would increase to $106.17.

City clerk and treasurer Laurel Thomas said the proposed 4-percent increase for water is the typical annual increase to cover the rising costs of operations and maintenance. The proposed 8.2 percent for sewer also includes the typical 4-percent annual increase, as well as an additional 4.2 percent to cover additional operation and maintenance costs associated with the upgraded treatment plant.

“The improvement bond amounts are flexible from year to year depending on the number of users and the previous year’s activity,” Thomas said in an email to the Daily Bee. “These rates have to generate a certain amount as mandated by the city’s loan and grant agreements with USDA. They are required to fund the annual debt payments, the annual contributions to the debt reserve funds, and contributions to capital improvement replacement funds.”

Council members approved an increase last year as well of $7.88 between the water and wastewater utilities. The increase raised residents’ bills from $92.72 to $100.60. At the time of last year’s increase, Mayor Jim Martin said that as prices of electricity, wages, health insurance and other costs to keep the city water and wastewater in operation go up, so do the fees.

Last month, City Council members approved a tentative budget for fiscal year 2020 of $6,745,098, a decrease of approximately $1.2 million from the current year. With the tentative budget, council members adopted the maximum budget amount for 2020, meaning the total can be decreased but not increased before final adoption.

The tentative budget includes a general fund of $1,273,568, a street fund of $1,580,703, a water fund of $682,897, a wastewater fund of $3,205,385, and an impact fee fund of $2,545. Of the general fund revenue, an estimated $646,826 is expected to come from property taxes — an increase of about $20,000 over the current year. Expenditures of the general fund include salaries, benefits, insurance and other operational costs for the city.

The public hearings on the proposed rate increases and 2020 budget will be held at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Priest River City Hall, 552 High St.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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