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St. Helens council discusses utility rates for next year

City Council will hold a public forum next week to hear community input


A public forum will be held Wednesday, Nov. 4, at 6:30 p.m. at the St. Helens City Council chambers to discuss a proposed increase for water, sewer and storm utility rates for 2016.

City staff will give a presentation at the forum that will outline the factors in rate increases and the methods used to calculate those costs.

City Finance Manager Jon Ellis has also spoken with the City Council

during work sessions in October to determine the proposed rate in-

crease.

A notification of the forum containing proposed rate increases of 0.75 percent for water, 0.25 percent for sewer and 0.25 percent for stormwater for 2016 were sent out to customers this week. The proposed rate increase would cost an average residence 46 cents more a month.

In November 2013, the City Council adopted a resolution that increased fees 9 percent over two years, increasing rates 4.5 percent in 2014 and again in 2015. Ellis said the new rates would only be established for 2016, while the City Council considers alternative pricing and billing structures sometime next year.

Ellis said the city is fairly plateaued in terms of capital project needs and received high revenue from commercial customers that was not previously anticipated. One of the major factors in increasing rates is to adjust for inflation, Ellis said. However, the estimated inflation rate for fiscal year 2015-16 is 2.25 percent and the proposed increase in fees is significantly lower than that.

At a City Council work session on Wednesday, Oct. 7, several council members expressed interest in keeping rate increases to a minimum.

“It would feel really good to to give the community a break,” Ginny Carlson, a council member, said. “We’ve been hitting them hard for a lot of years.”

City Administrator John Walsh warned, however, that not increasing rates at all could hurt them in the long run.

“Anything less than inflation has to be made up at some point, and

it doesn’t get any easier,” Walsh said.

The City Council will likely vote on the rate increases in mid-November, sometime after the forum.

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