Prineville residents could see rate hikes

City’s 2007-08 budget calls for sewer, water increases

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: June 03. 2007 5:00AM PST

RINEVILLE – Prineville residents are in for another year of rate hikes in their sewer and water bills, according to the city’s draft budget for the 2007-08 fiscal year.

Those interested in building and buying new homes in the city could also see the sewer system development charges double to about $8,000, City Manager Robb Corbett said.

Sewer and water rates have gone up for several years in a row, which Corbett said was due to increased maintenance costs and a need to catch up after low or no rate increases in the past. But he added that officials think this will be the last year that residents will see a double-digit percentage rise in their sewer rates.

Since 2003, sewer rates have more than doubled from $21 a month to the current rate of about $43 a month, with another 10 percent bump in the budget for the coming fiscal year.

“What you should see would be annual increases, but they would be at the rate of inflation,” Corbett said. “We are adjusting rates at a rate greater than inflation to make up for years of not increasing our rates adequately.”

Although officials estimated during last year’s budget process that sewer fees would have to increase by 14 percent for 2007-08, the budget includes a 10 percent increase for the coming year. Finance Director Liz Schuette said the monthly flat rate for sewer service right now is set at $43.32, and it would increase to about $47.65.

The current base rate for water in most single-family homes is $12.08 a month, with the city charging an additional $1.26 for every 100 cubic feet of water used, Schuette said. Under the 5 percent rate increase proposed in the 2007-08 budget, the base rate would go up to about $12.68 a month and the usage fee would be about $1.32 per 100 cubic feet of water.

Prineville recently updated its sewer master plan, Corbett said, and the higher sewer SDCs are part of the methodology for implementing the new plan. SDCs are fees that apply to new developments in a community and go toward the cost of new infrastructure needed for a growing population. Together, Prineville’s water, transportation and sewer SDC fees total about $9,000 currently.

The fiscal year runs from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008. A budget committee reviewed a draft of the document this week and the City Council should vote on it in late June.

The city’s total budget for the year will be about $33.5 million, according to the draft. That is up about 12.5 percent from last year’s budget of $29.8 million, Schuette said.

Overall, Corbett said, the budget shows that “we are making improvements in all fronts.” The document won an award from the Government Finance Officers Association for “distinguished budget presentation.”

One of the major accomplishments stated in the budget is that the Prineville Police Department has reached a 100 percent staffing level for the first time in several years, with all of the roughly 20 officer positions filled. In the past, law enforcement officials have said that Prineville has a difficult time retaining staff because of competition with higher-paying departments in Bend and Redmond.

“The city three years ago embarked on a strategic planning process that required us to anticipate where we needed to be as an organization 10 years out,” he said. “This is the third year of using that planning to develop our budgets, and what I’m seeing is that we are making progress or have systems in place to ensure that we’re going to be making progress in the future.”

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