Hillsboro council OKs three fee increases, tables a fourth

After listening to the concerns of about a half dozen residents about proposed increases in city utilities, the Hillsboro City Council tabled an ordinance that raise the base rate for sewer service by $8.70 a month to pay off a bond more quickly.

At the same time, the council did approve proposals to increase the monthly base rate for electrical service by $4 (to $9), the water rate by $1 (to $28.06) and the recycling fee by 5 cents (to $1.90). The new rates will affect consumers in January 2010.

The residents expressed their concern about additional fee increases in light of the current economy, the number of residents on fixed incomes and the likelihood of new tax assessments for the construction and operation of a new county jail.

The impact of all four of city?s the original proposals for the average household would have been $164 a year. The three rate increases that the council approved will result in a total increase of $60.60 per year.

The council approved the increases for electric and water fees rather than raise the mill levy for property taxes sufficient to fund the 2010 budget. The 5-cent increase for recycling simply passed on an increase to the city by the McPherson Area Solid Waste, which picks up the recycled materials from the city?s volunteer-run center.

The proposed $8.70 monthly increase for sewer service would have been applied to the bond payment the city used to build its new wastewater lagoons and accompanying upgrades to the system. Increasing the bond payment by the amount generated by the new fee would have reduced the life of the bond from 40 years to 21 years and saved the city more than $2.75 million in interest.

City Administrator Larry Paine said the ordinance to save the city $2.75-plus million ?makes the most business sense to me and is by far the most significant thing I?ve proposed (for the future of the city) while I?ve been here.?

Councilor Bob Watson made a motion to approve the plan, but it died for a lack of a second. The issue was tabled for an indefinite time to see how the county?s jail project might develop over the next couple of months.

Mayor Delores Dalke said, ?It is a sad day that we are making our decision on what another unit of government is doing. The county is building a jail, we?re not.?

She added the city has ?always done a good job? of taking care of its business for more than 20 years without having to raise property taxes — unlike the county and the school district.

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