SYRACUSE -- City residents could be looking at multiple fee increases for the cost of services in the coming fiscal year.
City Finance Director Stephen Marshall said four of the city's seven enterprise funds are operating at a loss, and a three-year plan was recently initiated to raise rates incrementally to stop the shortfall.
City officials are expected to consider possible rate increases as part of a new consolidated fee schedule at a June 11 meeting. It is the same meeting at which a public hearing is scheduled to consider final approval of a 2013-2014 fiscal year budget. The city's fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.
Marshall said the pass-along fee for service from North Davis Sewer District is already scheduled to go up $1.50 this year and to go up for another three years. He suggested dovetailing possible rate increases in the city's secondary and stormwater funds at the same time. Ironically, the rate discussion also included a possible decrease in garbage fees of 55 cents per month per household for the coming fiscal year.
The rate changes would include a hike in secondary water and stormwater for 2013-2014, another increase in the culinary water fund for 2014-2015 and another bump in culinary rates for the 2015-2016 year. The cumulative rate increase for all fees, including the sewer fund, was $4.25 per month per household for 2013-2014, $4 for 2014-2015 and $2.40 for 2015-2016.
Councilman Craig Johnson suggested implementing the rate increases over a five-year period, so Marshall was instructed to come back to the next council meeting with three different phase-in proposals ranging from three to five years.
Marshall said without some kind of increase in some of the enterprise funds, the city will have a difficult time doing any sort of capital improvements without bonding. He said raising the rates would generate enough money for the projects to be paid for by cash, not by borrowing.
"I worry about costs going up, being a resident. I am proposing this for myself. We've held rates for two years, because the economy has been hard, but by not acting, we're putting ourselves further and further behind," Marshall said. He said the city's utility funds should be self-supporting and self-funded.
Council members know any kind of increase won't be popular.
"They're going to come kicking and screaming at $4 or $3, it's going to be the same," Councilman Larry Shingleton said of an increase in rates.
Councilman Brian Duncan described himself as a fiscal conservative, but said he can see how keeping the rates too low can be a continual problem for the city.