By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes
There will likely be several fee and rate increases in Keizerites’ utility bills starting July 1 – but water rates won’t be among them.
Keizer’s Budget Committee voted to eliminate the water rate increases and rely on budgeted contingency funds to fill in the gaps.
Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, the total fee increases – a new stormwater license fee, an increase in the stormwater rate and sewer license fee – would have cost ratepayers about $30 per year. New estimates place that figure closer to $26 per year per household.
Councilors Brandon Smith and Jim Taylor spoke out against cutting the water rate hike, and ultimately voted against it along with Councilor Cathy Clark and committee member Joanne Beilke.
Taylor and Smith both pointed out that the water rate – which goes into a separate fund – was not intended to reach a balanced budget, as were the franchise and license fee increases.
“This committee, not unanimously, but by majority was OK with increasing fees, yet you want to take a fund for the most important thing we provide and cut that,” Taylor said, noting the fee increases were part of a long-term cost of service analysis. “That’s almost a knee-jerk reaction.”
Smith contended that the lack of cuts Taylor and Councilor David McKane lamented in last week’s Keizertimes had actually already been included in the city manager’s recommended budget.
“In my opinion the heavy lifting was done before we went into the budget process,” Smith said.
Mayor Lore Christopher voted to eliminate the rate hike, saying it would reduce the impact of other revenue-generating measures this year.
“This is an area where we can fully fund this fund, this year by reducing the contingency,” Christopher said, while acknowledging it would likely mean higher water rate increases in future years.
Public Works Superintendent Bill Lawyer said the city’s cost of service analysis will mean larger rate increases in the future since this year’s was cut.
“ Ultimately, the long-term impact is at some point the increase will become much larger because of not having it now,” Lawyer said.
The board also considered, but did not add to the budget, a $50,000 request from the Parks Advisory Board from the parks system development charges fund. The request was to renovate the current Keizer Rapids Park caretaker house into a reception area and facilities for visiting performers at the nearby amphitheatre.
Some committee members liked the idea, but didn’t vote on it, with Christopher saying the proposal “wasn’t ripe” just yet.
The budget also includes a crosswalk in south Keizer. Discussion on how to mitigate pedestrian traffic in the area – where there is not a marked crosswalk between Glynbrook Street N. and the southern city limit – ultimately went nowhere.