At-large Councilwoman Jennifer Graf addressed the city’s loss of citizens and tax dollars to pay for infrastructure the city already struggles with. She also called attention to the financial and legal repercussions the city could suffer because council members don’t want to enact the rate increase.
“I can guarantee there isn’t one hand that would raise and say ‘We really want to raise the taxes for our citizens. None of us want to. None of us want to. This is very painful,” Graf said.
Ward 3 Councilwoman Bev Hermann made the motion to send the increase for a vote at the next regularly scheduled council meeting. She said she believed the rate increase needed to happen based on the consequences if it did not. She also pointed to the actual amount of the increase, which would bring the cost per unit from $8.18 to $8.96.
“When I look at this, this 9.5 percent increase, it amounts to 78 cents a billed unit, 78 cents. I think we need to go ahead and do this and get started on this project and deal with the rest of it as we go,” Hermann said.
Council members agreed to move the rate increase to their next City Council meeting, with At-large Councilman John Rowland dissenting.
The council also voted to hold a workshop to explore the options for funding long-term capital projects in order to avoid future rate increases.
“We’re stuck here,” Ward 2 Councilwoman Julie Allesee said. “It sounds like we’re stuck. But if we can have these meetings to look at these capital projects and come up with a way that’s more affable for our citizens, I think that it’s our due diligence to do that.”
The city already uses some measures to help increase collections on sewer bills such as the income offset program and monthly billing. City officials also plan to discuss ways to handle businesses and establishments with certificates of occupancy that have severely outstanding sewer bills.