Garbage rates going down to neutralize sewer increases

Friday, March 8, 2019

Alta City Council signaled interest Monday in decreasing garbage rates by $4 while increasing the base sewage fee by $4, something City Clerk Megan Peterson recommended as an easy move that would not affect users negatively when paying their bills.

“To me, it’s a no brainer,” City Councilman Denny Weber said. “It’s not costing the public anything, we’re just moving the revenue to an area that needs the revenue.”

“$4 will get us back into the black,” Kevin Walsh said, with no expense to the public.

The official change should be ready for approval at City Council’s next monthly meeting April.

The decrease was planned to help offset costs after January’s meeting indicated a need to raise sewage rates.

“I realize we’re going to have to raise rates some day,” Weber said.

The City of Alta is on course to raise sewer rates three times over the next year to make up for years of operating in the red.

“The problem is [the problems] just don’t go away, so we just have to prioritize,” Council Member Kevin Walsh said of the capital improvement projects in January.

A presentation from Storm Lake’s ISG at a budget meeting showed plans for just under $2 million in project costs for Alta’s five-year capital improvements plan, with much-needed sewer lining accounting for 65 percent of the cost.

Budget documents show the deficit of $27,000 between annual revenue and expenses for the sewer fund.

The proposal recommended rate increases to cover operations, debt and capital improvement projects, which serve 757 residential and 57 commercial users. Current base rates of $12.59 should be increased to $13.25 on Feb. 15, $14.50 on June 15, and $15.00 on Dec. 15. An extra quarter would be added to that rate in June 2021.

Additionally, usage rates would go from $4.03 per thousand gallons currently to $4.53 in June and $5.03 in December.

The changes would raise the average residential monthly bill from $32.74 currently to $33.40 in February, $37.15 in June and $40.15 in December—an increase of $7.41 per month by the end of the year.

To cover storm water projects of over $500,000 covering 9th Street, West 2nd Street and NE 1st Street, the recommendations also ask the City to consider implementing a storm water utility to issue a $650,000 bond.

The 20 year payment schedule for the bond, divided among 792 residential and 94 commercial users, would amount to about $4 per household or business per month.

“They just don’t fix themselves,” said Mayor Al Clark.