PROSSER -- Prosser residents may see tax increases next year.
Mayor Paul Warden and City Administrator Charlie Bush are asking the city council to consider imposing a 7.5 percent tax on garbage services as part of the city's proposed 2011-12 budget, which council members began discussing at a workshop this week.
Prosser's suggested garbage tax would tack on an extra $1 to the monthly utility bill for an average household and would take effect Jan. 1.
Warden asked for the increase to bring in about $56,000, the same amount the city spent last year on contributions to the Historic Downtown Prosser Association, the Prosser Economic Development Association and the city's shared grant writer.
The city of Prosser raised rates on sewer and irrigation services in January.
This marks the first time city officials are attempting to pass a biennial -- or two-year -- budget. Sunnyside plans to do the same this year.
For all cities, passing the yearly budget is an arduous fall task that takes several months. Officials in both cities hope doing it every two years will cut down on some of the lengthy discussions.
Sounding an alarm common to most cities and counties, Bush pointed to a depressed economy as the reason for tight times, especially with the city's general fund, which relies heavily on taxes and functions like a checking account for salaries and day-to-day expenses.
"We were literally into hundreds of dollars trying to get things balanced," Bush told the council.
Prosser's finances took an unexpected hit in May, when the ConAgra Foods Lamb Weston potato processing plant closed. Overall, the closure spelled the loss of more than $400,000 a year for city coffers.
The preliminary 2011-12 general fund budget -- $4.2 million for 2011 and $4.4 million for 2012 -- involves no layoffs, few service reductions and no fee or tax increases except for the proposed garbage tax.
If the "Great Recession," as Bush called it, continues into 2013, the city could face closing the senior center, eliminating its in-house police dispatch center, imposing a new business and occupation tax, or other drastic changes.
The council will continue budget discussions at its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
"I know it's painful," Warden said.
The proposed 2011-12 budget also eliminates a police dispatcher position that is expected to be vacant by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, city officials have committed to several capital projects, including a $2.7 million renovation of the pool, paid for with a state grant, city funds, community donations and a $1.6 million, 20-year council-authorized bond.
Also, construction has started on a $4.2 million water system improvement in north Prosser near Interstate 82.