Millwood residents will see an increase in utility rates, but no change in taxes for 2011.
As part of the final discussion regarding next year’s budget, the Millwood City Council unanimously approved an 18-percent hike in water and sewer bills at its monthly meeting on Monday. The decision represents the first adjustment in utility rates since the mid-1990s.
According to Mayor Dan Mork, the move was prompted by several factors, including escalating costs in areas like water treatment and staffing. The city must also maintain an $800,000 reserve on its water bond for 2011.
“In retrospect, it probably would have been better to have incremental increases, but this is something that needs to happen,” Mork said.
The good news is that the bond will be paid off by 2011, freeing funds for anticipated capital improvements such as replacing wells and painting tanks. As for the response from citizens – who will see the new rates show up on their bills for January – Mork said he expects a certain level of less-than-enthused feedback.
“I think we’ll hear about it,” he said. “We just have to explain what’s going on. The residents who have been at our meetings have actually said they’re surprised that the rates haven’t gone up earlier, especially in comparison with other (utility) districts.”
Under the new format, the monthly water bill in Millwood will go from $30 to $35.40 while the sewer rate increases from $14.70 to $17.35.
In a related matter, the council approved closure of the capital sewer reserve fund by unanimously passing Ordinance 405. The city’s water fund will receive 80 percent of the money from the dissolved account with 20 percent being allocated to the sewer fund. The wording of the ordinance describes how the city hopes “to eliminate the potential duplication of fund expenditures and to better track moneys spent on particular items or for a particular purpose.”
“It’s just simpler for accounting not to have all those extra funds,” said Millwood City Clerk Tom Richardson.
On the budget front, the final public hearing of the year drew silence from the sparse crowd at City Hall. One of the most significant changes to the financial blueprint for 2011 will involve the general fund receiving 80 percent of the city’s property tax revenue next year with the street fund garnering the remaining 20 percent. In 2010, the two funds split property tax returns in half.
The 2011 budget, as depicted in Ordinance 407, lists the estimated beginning balance for the general fund at $900,000. Revenue for next year is anticipated at $792,527 with expenditures of $772,128, leaving an estimated ending balance at $920,399.
Projecting ahead, the city has set overall expenditures at $2.052 million in 2011, an increase from $1.930 last year. Millwood will begin the new year with an estimated balance of $2.237 million.
Unlike most jurisdictions in Washington – including its neighbors to the east, Spokane Valley and Liberty Lake – Millwood continues to collect a healthy portion of sales tax. In 2009, the city reported an increase in sales tax revenue and has generated a robust $268, 246 in 2010 with at least one more payment remaining for the year.
“It’s been positive,” Richardson said. “Year-to-date shows we’ve been faring pretty well. I’m hoping that will continue.”