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Rate hikes for water, sewer on horizon in Sunnyside

The Sunnyside City Council heard from the city's public works, police and fire departments at a 2008 budget meeting held last night, and were told the city planned on raising water rates by 6 percent and sewer rates by 15 percent.

The proposed water rate hike is expected to help bring in $3,354,470 in revenues and proposed expenditures in 2008 for this department are estimated at $3,177,380. This proposal would leave an ending balance of $1,469,640 for 2009.

Sunnyside Public Works Director Jim Bridges told the council the multi-year $18 million wastewater treatment plant improvement project was completed in mid-2007 and debt service for $12 million of loans will begin in 2008. The proposed 15 percent sewer rate hike will help bring in $2,039,850 in revenues for the department. Expected expenditures for 2008 are $2,340,930, leaving an ending balance at the end of next year at $264,830.

Bridges told the council a major reduction in the street fund being proposed for 2008 is the removal of the chip-sealing program. This program helps maintain 56 miles of roads in Sunnyside. Bridges said eliminating this program for 2008 would help save $63,000.

Councilman Bruce Epps noted how important this program is to Sunnyside's roads and asked Bridges how much he would need to continue the program. Bridges said the department already has some rock, but would need $40,000 for oil and another $6,000 for rock. This would allow for half of Sunnyside's roads to be sealed, Bridges added.

"I'd really like to find the money for the chip-sealing program," Epps said.

He conceded it probably couldn't be done right now but later in the year if revenues allowed for it, he would like to see it continued.

Sunnyside Police Chief Ed Radder and Deputy Police Chief Phil Schenk outlined the proposed police budget for 2008.

Radder told the council estimated expenditures for 2008 in the law enforcement fund are $2,576,110, an $18,470 increase from 2007. Thanks to a GREAT grant from the Department of Justice, Sunnyside was able to move an officer to the schools and shave off $84,960 in salary and wages.

A condition of the grant is the police department must hire another officer to backfill the position left vacant by the GREAT officer. Radder told the council he has written a letter to the Department of Justice asking if the city could avoid hiring a new officer due to budget restraints on the city. Radder said he hasn't heard back from Justice yet on this issue.

In the police crime prevention fund, Radder said the city is expecting $132,430 in projected revenues for 2008. Estimated expenditures for next year are $200,760. This would leave an ending balance of $11,820 at the end of 2008.

In the jail fund, expected revenues for 2008 are $760,250 with projected expenditures for 2008 the same as its revenues. Schenk told the council that by buying food at a bulk rate, the cost of feeding a prisoner a day is $2.51.

Sunnyside Fire Chief Aaron Markham told the council the projected expenditures for the fire control fund in 2008 are $1,001,430.

He told the council a fire captain position created in 2007 has been eliminated for 2008. This reduced salaries and wages in this fund by $27,770. The biggest increase in this fund is expected to be in supplies, with the fire department asking for $76,950, a $30,100 increase from 2007.

A proposed 6 percent rate increase in the city's ambulance/EMS services in 2008 is expected to help bring in $842,310 to the ambulance/EMS fund. Proposed expenditures for 2008 in this fund total $855,520. This would leave an ending balance of $172,820 at the end of 2008.

The Sunnyside City Council still wants to revisit the code enforcement fund to see if proposed job cuts in this department can be avoided. The council will meet at 6 p.m. next Tuesday, Nov. 13, for an executive session, and then hold its regularly scheduled meeting at 6:30 p.m. After this meeting is concluded, the council will look at the code enforcement fund again and then make suggestions to the city manager and the city's finance director about the proposed 2008 budget. The council is expected to approve the budget sometime in early December.

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