As inflation pinches city budgets, Corvallis officials will consider increasing a list of expenses during a Thursday, Nov. 10 business meeting.
Council members and staff are expected to discuss a wide range of services and come up with “remedial options”, according to a staff report. The report highlights inflation rising to 8.2% in September.
These charges appear on residents’ monthly utility bills. They include water, sewage, storm water, street and transportation maintenance, sidewalk maintenance, transit operations, urban forestry, police services, fire and low-income relief.
Renewal of the fee supporting parks and recreation as well as library operations and funding for social service efforts are also flagged for discussion in the staff report, as is funding for facility replacement and renovation projects. .
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“The situation is highlighted and exacerbated by current economic conditions,” the staff report said. “Sharply rising costs and rising interest rates mean there is no easy solution. We cannot continue to “kick the box” further down the road.
The staff report apparently targets the board members themselves. Citing a discussion from the October 20 working session, the staff report notes difficulties in finding consistent examples of “forward strategic thinking and decision-making” regarding the current and future budget situation, adding that the lack of consideration has leads to a “critical position that requires difficulties.” and immediate action”.
“As we consider how best to meet the city’s current and future needs, we will capitalize on good decisions made recently and avoid bad outcomes by learning from past bad decisions,” the staff report said.
City staff are expected to bring resolutions on rates back for council’s decision at the December 5 council meeting.
Here’s what’s on the table:
Water: Staff recommend a 7% increase, or $2.01 on the average residential bill. The inflationary impact was higher, but staff recommend limiting the increase and covering the difference with savings such as those from vacancies.
Waste: Staff recommend a 7% increase, or $2.83 on the average residential bill. The inflationary impact was higher, but staff recommend limiting the increase and covering the difference with savings such as those from vacancies.
Rainy waters : Staff recommend a 7% increase, or 69 cents on the average residential bill. The increase would cover inflation and provide the additional capacity needed to meet growing regulatory requirements.
Street maintenance/transportation: Using a year-over-year increase, the adjustment would be 12.4%. The cost of street projects over the past year exceeds this, and even with the rise, expensive improvement projects will be postponed based on current prices. Other adjustments could be considered in future discussions. A 12.4% increase represents a $1.03 increase in an average residential bill.
Sidewalk maintenance: This fee is set by order at 80 cents per account and has not been adjusted since it was introduced in 2011. Staff recommends an increase of 20 cents. This requires an ordinance, and staff recommends an amendment to the code to have referral fees set by resolution, as has been done for most other fees and charges.
Transit operation: Adjustments are made automatically based on the average Oregon gas price per gallon from January through December of the previous year. If gas prices are higher, costs increase. If they are lower, they drop, but not below the base rate of $2.75 per residential customer. The staff report shows an estimated proposed increase of $1.36, bringing the fee to $4.80.
Urban forestry: The initial fee of 50 cents has not been adjusted since implementation in 2011. Staff recommends an increase of 20 cents to accommodate inflation. This requires an ordinance, and staff recommends an amendment to the code to have referral fees set by resolution, as has been done for most other fees and charges.
Police Services: Originally set at $12.10 per month for the average residential customer, the police fee was lowered to $8.70 per month, where it has remained, after moving from a 911 service district to the county scale. Staff recommends an increase of $3.50 to cover inflation and contract increases to the departmental budget.
Fire services: Set at $5.21 per month for the average residential customer in 2018, the fire rate was lowered to $4.34 per month, where it remained, also after a service district passed 911 countywide. Staff recommends an increase of $2 to cover inflation and contract increases to the departmental budget. Another $6 increase would be required if a medical unit is staffed at Fire Station 1.
Help for low-income people: Established in January 2021, the fee provides up to $25 credit to single-family residential customers paying municipal utility bills and participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Oregon Health Plan or Free School Lunch Program . Staff did not recommend a 35 cent fee increase.
Cody Mann covers the towns of Corvallis and Philomath. He can be reached at 541-812-6113 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter via @News_Mann_.