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Mabton eyes 5 percent utility tax reduction

MABTON - Mabton residents could be looking at a reduction in their utility bills as last night the city council gave initial thumbs up at reducing utility taxes by 5 percent.

Tuesday night's utility tax discussion was part of an ongoing budget process for 2010.

City Clerk Ret Stewart cautioned against a 5 percent utility tax cut for citizens, encouraging council to consider perhaps a 2 or 3 percent reduction.

The reason, she said, is because the city's proposed $646,613 general fund budget leaves an ending fund balance of only $9,581 at the close of 2010. A tax cut of 5 percent, Stewart noted, would reduce the ending fund balance by $7,500.

Councilman Mario Martinez said he wanted to see utility taxes cut by 5 percent and eventually by 20 percent. "We're saying to the public that we're going to get this right," he said.

During a budget crunch last year, Mabton's utility tax was raised 25 percent.

Other council members sided with Martinez to change the preliminary budget to reflect a 5 percent decrease in the utility tax rate.

Another budget change related to utilities is that council last night considered a move to charge a $10 fee on late water and sewer utility payments.

Currently there is no charge and Stewart told council that typically 35 percent of the city's water customers are behind in paying their bill each month, representing more than 200 hook-ups.

Noting there's no incentive to pay on time, Stewart suggested a $10 late fee for water bills paid after the 15th of the month.

Figuring the current number of late paying customers, Stewart figured there's approximately $24,000 in annual fees the city has been missing out on over the years.

Council liked the idea and, if formally adopted, the penalty would take effect in January 2010.

Council also is sticking with plans to increase the number of police officers to three next year.

The Mabton City Council's next budget discussion will be during a study session set for Thursday, Nov. 19, at 6 p.m.

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