04/17/09 — Walnut Creek looking at tax, fee hikes

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Walnut Creek looking at tax, fee hikes

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on April 17, 2009 1:46 PM

WALNUT CREEK -- Village residents could see higher water and sewer bills and property tax in months to come, but the size of the possible increases are still to be determined.

Village Council members met Wednesday to discuss the 2009-10 budget, which begins July 1.

Council members said they wanted to see how the village would pay for sewer and water system improvements.

Two of the village's five sewage lift stations are in need of repair, and the village also needs another well to pump water to residents on the system.

But in tight economic times, the village might not have the money to resolve both situations, and officials might have to decide between improving the sewer system or the water system next year.

"Can we get water from another source?" Council member Greg Ricker asked.

"Yes," Village Administra-tor Lou Cook said.

That made up Ricker's mind.

"If a lift station goes out, we're in trouble," he said.

Cook said $200,000 would likely get the well that is needed "on line."

"And it would outwork the other wells," he added.

But repairs to the two lift stations would cost nearly $1.5 million.

If the village fixed the lift stations first, it could receive water service, if need be, from Wayne Water District, since the village is already tapped into the water lines.

"How much does Wayne Water District charge us for water?" Mayor Darrell Horne asked.

Cook said he didn't have the exact amount in front of him, but said he knew the village is charged more than the village charges its residents.

"Whatever that amount is, that's what we should be charging our customers," Horne said.

Other council members agreed, saying that if the village would ever need to tap into the district's water supply in an emergency situation, then the village wouldn't be losing money.

"I support that comment," Ricker said. "In the event we need it, we need to charge enough."

Council member Tom Shaw said the village should fix the sewer lift stations first.

"We've got to keep our sewer system up," Mayor Pro-Tem Danny Jackson said. "We need to get a sewer rate to carry the sewer and a water rate to carry the water."

Ricker agreed, but said he would rather see money spent on the sewer system first.

Right now, Horne said, revenue from water rates are "subsidizing the sewer," for basic operation excluding regular maintenance.

"The sewer should be self-sustaining, and the water should be the same," Ricker said.

The council has previously discussed adjusting sewer rates based on water consumption.

"Now, we charge a flat rate for sewage, and that's not a good way to do it," Cook said.

Horne agreed, saying that the flat rate system wasn't fair for people who don't use the sewer system as much as others.

The council decided to have village officials look into rates for both water and sewer that would make each system more self-sustaining as well as billing residents on sewer rates based on their water usage.

Residents might also see an increase in their property taxes.

The current tax rate is 36 cents per $100 value.

The council looked at options for a 4-cent increase, an 8-cent increase and a 12-cent increase.

The 4-cent increase would provide the village with about $57,000 more in revenue. The 8-cent increase would provide the village an extra $113,000 in revenue over the current value, and the 12-cent increase would add about $169,000.

The council will hold its monthly meeting Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.