The city of Pasco is looking at several increases in costs for services in 2014, according to City Manager Gary Crutchfield.
Crutchfield is likely to ask the city council for about a 10 percent water rate increase in January, he said as part of a presentation on the 2014 budget at Monday's council meeting. The increase would be the first since 2010.
The water rate increase should add between $3 and $4 to a typical monthly bill, Crutchfield said after the meeting.
Mayor Matt Watkins told the Herald that increases in services for costs are being done at the same time the city decreases its property tax rate.
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"Some of the services we have had not been adjusted for a long time," he said. "We have not raised rates nearly as high as if we had kept pace with inflation."
Other proposed increases include $1.50 monthly to the ambulance standby fee and a dollar each to sewer and stormwater fees, Crutchfield said.
The council gave preliminary approval to the city's 2014 operating and capital project budgets at the meeting.
The budget includes nine new positions.
The city has grown large enough that it is required to take over licensing for pre-treatment of industrial discharge into the sewer system, which will require two new employees. That will cost $200,000 plus a one-time base fee of $150,000.
Another three people are being hired to put in new fire hydrants and repair existing hydrants. The program will add $300,000 to the budget, which is expected to be paid for with a water rate increase.
Two street workers are also being added to help repair sidewalks. The employees will add $250,000 to the budget. They are expected to repair all of Pasco's sidewalks within four years.
The city is also adding a second chief groundsman to oversee the city's expanding parks system and other corridors. A geographic systems administrator will be hired to oversee implementing and operating an electronic mapping database system.
No one spoke at a public hearing on the proposed budget. The operating budget passed unanimously, while the capital projects budget passed by a 6-1 margin, with Councilman Tom Larsen opposed. Larsen refused to say why he voted against the capital projects budget after the meeting.
The city has a budget of $143.7 million, with a general fund of $44.5 million that includes day-to-day operations like police and parks.
The council approved a property tax levy rate of $1.96 cents per $1,000 valuation at its Nov. 18 meeting. That is a decrease from the $1.97 approved in fiscal year 2013. The decrease means the owner of a $100,000 home would pay $1.13 less in city property taxes in 2013.
The city of Pasco plans to collect an estimated $7.03 million in property taxes next year, an increase over the $7.01 million levied in 2013, despite the lower tax rate. That's because the city has seen its total assessed value of all properties rise to $3.5 billion, up almost 7 percent from $3.3 billion last year. That is due partly to annexation in the western part of the city that went into effect this year.
A final vote on the budget is scheduled for Dec. 16.
w The council approved an agreement that reduces the amount the city would have to pay for land that had been proposed for a regional aquatics center because the city found a partner in the deal. The aquatics center, which would have required a tenth of a percent sales tax, was rejected by Tri-City voters in August.
Pasco will pay $1.4 million of the $2.8 million cost for 28 acres near the Broadmoor outlet mall south of Sandifur Boulevard. The rest will be paid for by West Pasco LLC, a group owned by Len Dietrich, owner of Basin Disposal.
The city would have forfeited its option to buy the property if it doesn't do so by Jan. 31, 2014, which would cause it to lose the $60,000 it deposited, Crutchfield said.
Councilman Al Yenney said the property would be a good fit for a business like Costco.
"I think it is basically a win-win for the citizens," he said.
Crutchfield compared the project to the city of Richland's involvement with the Queensgate development.
He said that although Pasco wouldn't be able to keep as much of the money made from the sale of the property as if it had tried to sell the land on its own, working with a private business allows it to keep part of the property on the city tax rolls.
w The council approved the low bid for a manholes project on Road 44 from Realm Inc. of DuPont for $122,066.
w Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom