Archive for Wednesday, July 27, 2005

City sewer, water rates slated for increase

July 27, 2005

Sewer and water rates are expected to increase in Tonganoxie.

Last Wednesday, during the city council's second budget work session, City Administrator Mike Yanez proposed budget funds, including sewer and water. Both water and sewer rates in Tonganoxie are calculated based on the amount of water a customer uses.

Council members legally could take no action at the work session. But Monday night, during their regular meeting, they approved the budget for publication and set a public hearing date of 7 p.m. Aug. 8, during the next regular council meeting. Council members are expected to take final action on the budget after the public hearing.

The budget calls for a levy of 33.513 mills. That compares to the 2005 levy of 33.576. One mill is equal to $1 in taxes for $1,000 in property valuation.

The general fund, as Yanez proposes, would carry expected expenses of $1,593,516, up $136,992 from fiscal year 2005.

Sewer fund

During last week's budget session, Yanez presented these two options that would increase city sewer-fund revenues by 5 percent.

Currently, customers pay a $7.06 monthly minimum. And they are charged $2.95 for each additional 1,000 gallons used.

Yanez proposed these two possibilities:

  • Increasing the rate to a $7.42 monthly minimum -- and $3.45 for each additional 1,000 gallons used.
  • A so-called "winter average rate." Under that plan, households would be charged an $11.80 monthly minimum and $3.45 for each additional 1,000 gallons used. Normally, less water is used in winter months than the rest of the year. The winter rate is higher so it can compensate for higher summer usage, Yanez said.

Council member Velda Roberts, who suggested the winter average, said Tonganoxie is the only place she's lived that doesn't incorporate the winter average.

However, council member Steve Gumm cautioned against the new rate, saying the reclassification could affect senior citizens, "basically changing the burden of revenue," he said.

"I'm just stating the fact that we're going to have some issues in regard to seniors," Gumm said.

Gumm said seniors were an example of minimum users who would be paying more because they tend to not use more water in the summer.

The winter average favors residents who do use more water in the summer -- a peak time for usage.

Council member Ron Cranor said he wasn't comfortable with the winter average rate.

"There are a lot of people who do not water their lawns, who do not have swimming pools, who do not waste water and they're going to be up in arms about the minimum," Cranor said.

Under the current fee structure -- as well as the two proposals the council is debating -- the monthly minimum fee covers the first 1,000 gallons used.

Yanez cited inflation, increases in prices for parts, supplies and materials, a larger collection system and the new wastewater treatment plant as reasons for the proposed increase.

Whichever option the council chooses will go into effect Jan. 1.

Water fund

Yanez also proposed increasing the monthly minimum rate for water use from $15.40 to $15.86. The rate for each additional 1,000 gallons would go from the current $3.95 to $4.07.

Yanez noted that the increase could be attributed to debt service requirements for the Kansas City, Kan., Board of Public Utilities water line project ($2.63 million) and a water tower that will be constructed on the new middle school site on Washington Street ($600,000).

This would be the first rate increase since 2002.

In addition, Yanez proposes increasing the water tap fee for new houses from the current rate of $500 to $1,000. With the increase, the city's fee, Yanez said, still would be lower than other local cities, including Bonner Springs ($1,300) and De Soto ($2,600).

The council was in favor of raising the fee.

"If $500 is an issue, then they probably don't need to be building or buying a house," Cranor said.

Members discussed raising the fee even more, but Gumm said that wouldn't be a good idea.

"Not that we couldn't use the funds, but I'd rather escalate it in a normal matter," Gumm said.

In other budget matters:

  • Yanez said the city should expect to receive $98,970 from the state special fuel tax with another $8,780 from the county special fuel tax.
  • The sanitation fund budget will see no rate increases for fiscal year 2006. Rates will remain at $9 per month for curbside trash pickup and $10 monthly for house-side pickup.
  • Through a state liquor drink tax, the special parks and recreation fund is expected to receive $5,675 that will be directed to the fund. The fund should have nearly $15,000 in available money overall, thanks to a projected $8,949 in carry-over fund balance. Yanez recommended that $12,000 of that fund be used for the Chieftain Trail project.
  • The transient guest tax fund is expected to generate only $1,200. The funds come from a 3 percent bed tax for overnight guests. The city doesn't generate much revenue from the tax because the city has limited lodging. The fund, according to Yanez, is for community leaders who approve purchases that impact tourism and economic development activities.

Wish list

Yanez introduced the capital budget, which the city administrator called a "wish list" for the city.

A $3 million city hall/community center/police station was a major item in the 2006 capital budget. Yanez said a bond election may be needed to finance the project. Council members have indicated that the new multi-purpose facility should be built in the downtown area.

The budget also has $20,000 set aside for city entrance signs, although the cost could be substantially lower. The city had looked into signs that cost less than $5,000.

Another major item on the budget was $30,000 allocated for a U.S. Highway 24-40 corridor study.

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