Tuesday, December 6, 2005
GRANDVIEW - With little public input, the Grandview City Council voted unanimously Monday night to raise rates on water and garbage service in what amounts to an increase of $4.06 a month for city customers.
The increase means water users will pay an extra $3 a month for water and an extra $1.06 for garbage service.
The increase raises the city's tax rates for water and garbage service from 6 to 17.5 percent for both services, but leaves the sewer rate at 6 percent.
Grandview Mayor Norm Childress said the increase in rates is necessary for the city to maintain its budget surplus to take care of problems that could arise in the future, such as some sort of disaster.
"The city is not in the business of making money," Childress said. "We're here to cover our expenses."
Despite a call from Childress at last week's special budget meeting for public input, only one Grandview resident showed up to voice concerns about the ability of residents, many of whom are on fixed incomes, to pay the proposed increase.
"What do you do at home?" Dottie Cervantes asked the council. "You look to see where you can tighten your belt.
"It seems to me that there needs to be a little of that done, or a lot of that done."
Cervantes expressed her concern that when factoring in the increasing costs of heating, transportation and food, an increase in the amount citizens have to pay for utilities may be too much to handle.
"We too in council are sensitive to that," said Councilman Robert Morales.
Despite Cervantes' concerns, council members remained committed to the fact that the increase was the city's best way to ensure the city can maintain the level of services it provides to its citizens.
Childress said the public needs to take more of an interest in letting the city know where cuts can be made in city services to avoid increases like this.
"I would like for the public to come in and let us know what they want to cut," he said.
But Childress cautioned in a progressive, growing city like Grandview, the city can't cut services and expect the growth to continue.
"I don't want to be responsible for closing those doors," he said.
Childress also said despite the increase in the city's rates, Grandview's rates are very near other city's rates in the area.
In fact, with the increase, Grandview's utility rate will be in the middle of others in the Yakima Valley.
Toppenish, at 38 percent, has the highest utility tax rate among cities of similar size. Granger, at 36 percent; Zillah, at 30 percent; and Wapato, at 23 percent, all have rates higher than Grandview.
Only Sunnyside, Mabton and Moxee had the same 6 percent rate prior to the Grandview increase.
"We're right there, or we're near the lowest," Childress said.
Councilwoman Helen Darr said the council would receive a report detailing whether the increase maintained the city's reserve money at the level prior to the increase.
Darr said then the council would know whether they were off in their budgeting for 2006.
The utility increase is meant to maintain the city's reserve fund at $441,000 for next year.
Other options the council looked at included across the board increases in water, sewer and garbage service.
The rate change is scheduled to take effect five days after its passage.