Grandview council considers utility rate increase for 2011

GRANDVIEW -- If you live in Grandview, your utility bill may go up next year and you might start paying extra for street improvements.

The Grandview City Council is considering boosting rates for water, sewer and irrigation service and imposing an extra $20 fee on vehicle registrations as part of the 2011 budget.

The proposed budget assumes the city council will approve a $3.94 increase in water, sewer and irrigation rates, taking a typical household monthly utility bill up to $90.91.

That's still lower than most neighboring small cities.

The annual financial blueprint must be complete -- and balanced -- by Dec. 31.

City Administrator Cus Arteaga said the water and sewer money will be used to replace old pipes along Birch Street and as matching funds to apply for community block grants for road improvements, as well as general maintenance.

With the irrigation increases, the city simply is passing along the same hike in what the Sunnyside Valley Irrigation District charges the city, Arteaga said.

Also, Arteaga has asked council members to allow a $20 fee when residents register their vehicles, a move the council has been discussing for two years. By state law, the estimated $180,000 in revenue could only be used for street maintenance and improvements in the city.

City councils and county commissioners may impose up to $20 without voter approval.

In April 2009, Prosser became the first Eastern Washington city to charge the fee.

Street maintenance is one of the toughest things for cities to afford because they don't charge a fee for it the way they do with water, sewer and garbage.

"That's our biggest challenge: how are we going to maintain that investment," Arteaga said.

City officials do not plan any layoffs to balance the 2011 budget despite an 11 percent increase in employee health insurance premiums, Arteaga said.

Instead, the city council plans to tap reserves and ask union representatives to agree to forego cost-of-living wages increases.

The city has 59 employees, six fewer than four years ago. Over the past year, the city has eliminated the position of a retired city hall receptionist and combined the positions of city administrator and public works director.

Arteaga assumed both roles in March after Scott Staples resigned, citing personal and health reasons.