January 6, 2009 in City

Spokane council approves utility increases

Trash, sewer, water will go up 3.5 percent
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Related news

Crime Check restarts operations

 After a four-year absence, Crime Check is back, and so is its old phone number: (509) 456-2233.

 Thanks to a sales tax approved in May, the popular service that allows residents to report crime any time of day restarted operations on Monday.

 Also on Monday, the Spokane City Council unanimously voted to pay $544,000 of Crime Check’s cost. The new countywide sales tax only pays Crime Check’s costs above what the city and county have paid to run the Crime Reporting Center. County leaders have agreed to pay $280,000 for Crime Check.

 Crime Check is intended for calls that don’t require an immediate police response. If police are needed quickly, officials ask callers to use 911.

Spokane trash, sewer and water customers will soon have to pay a few extra dollars a month on their utility bills.

The Spokane City Council unanimously approved on Monday a 3.5 percent billing increase that had been proposed in the fall by Mayor Mary Verner.

“It was zero percent last year, so we have two years of inflation to catch up on,” Councilman Al French said after the vote.

Public Works Director Dave Mandyke said the average residential bill will increase about $2.75 a month, depending on the customer’s garbage package and the amount of water a household uses.

All the fees on a monthly residential bill will be affected.

The monthly cost of a 68-gallon garbage bin, for instance, will increase by 83 cents to about $24.50.

“We go through and look at what the cost increases have been to us to provide those services, and that’s what it’s based on,” Mandyke said.

The city expects to finish a cost study later this year that will recommend a new utility rate structure.

“We’re falling a little bit behind,” said City Administrator Ted Danek. The costs approved Monday are “just kind of a placeholder until we get the right amount figured out.”

The rate study, which will be completed by an outside engineering firm, also will help leaders determine how to make up for changes made in December to the city’s utility tax.

The city charges its own utility departments a 20 percent tax that it uses to pay for police, fire and other nonutility services. That’s usually passed on to customers, but leaders recently began assessing the tax on some previously untaxed sewer, water and garbage charges without passing on the tax. That means new tax money owed will be taken out of utility revenue and will lower savings in some public works budgets.

Late last year, the council delayed action on utility rate changes because the proposal also included 20 percent increases on some one-time fees, such as hook-ups to city water service.

“We were attempting to recoup that 20 percent (utility tax) and pass it through,” Mandyke said. “That wasn’t well-received by council, so we rolled that back.”


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