Task force identifies water-sewer billing disparity

By Naomi Klouda
Homer Tribune

One of the major complaints in February 2012 when water-sewer hikes arrived in the mail was how they unfairly targeted apartment dwellers for a service fee of $25 for water and $20 for sewer.
At the time, no other fee increases were introduced to the city system.
But a task force set to work in May last year and came up with a newly proposed set of recommendations to rescind that fee and replace it with a $5 a month surcharge. They also recommend the city pay more for its water services used in public places.
Another leaky area in the billing system turns out to be the City of Homer, the task force said in its explanation of the current rate structure. The City’s water system is designed to primarily handle the fire protection needs of the City. But the current city contribution to the annual water budget does not meet the attributed costs that should be recovered through hydrant rents.
A slate of new proposals by the Homer Water and Sewer Task Force is now open for public comment. The next meeting is Tuesday at 5:15 p.m.
A rate schedule proposed by the Water Sewer Task Force would drop monthly service fees from $45 to $18 a month, with apartment users seeing service fees drop from $45 to $5 a month for each unit. That’s one of the recommendations in the draft stages.
Also recommended:
• Using a per-gallon water and sewer fee;
• Using a cost-causer, cost-payer schedule, where those who use more, pay more of their share of the cost;
• Charges to the general fund and the city for services used by the city, such as fire hydrants, needs to be changed;
• A $18 monthly service fee: Adjusting the monthly service fee based on the cost by the city finance department to bill users and spreading that on an equal basis among all users. Using the 2013 budget, the task force calculated the monthly service fee should be $18.
Last year, the Homer City Council heard residential and business complaints about rate changes, particularly for apartments. The task force is made up of residents Ken Castner (who served on another water-sewer task force in 1996-97), Bob Howard, Sharon Minsch, Lloyd Moore with Mayor Beth Wythe and Councilman Beau Burgess. The group began meeting in May 2012 to review the entire structure and come up with a new model to solve revenue shortages in the Water Sewer Enterprise fund.
In its explanation of changes, the task force wrote:
“The task force established that there were costs associated that were derived from the population in general (fire protection, city-owned buildings, public rest rooms, fish cleaning stations and support of other services that use water in their day-to-day activities). Those costs should be borne by the City through its general fund.”
The task force also found that maintaining and powering the sewer lift stations incurs higher HEA costs in those areas. These are located at Kachemak City and on the Homer Spit.
This is the schedule ahead, working toward a July 1 deadline when the new rates, whatever is settled on after public testimony and council action, go into effect.
• The public can testify this coming Tuesday before the task force at 5:15 p.m. in the Homer City Hall conference room upstairs.
• The second and final round of public testimony before the task force is Feb. 19 at 5:30 p.m. in the Cowles City Council Chambers downstairs.
Formal recommendations are then made by the task force to the Homer City Council by the first part of April.
• The Homer City Council will then place the recommendations in a draft ordinance or resolution for public review. The public will be able to give testimony on the measure before council approval.
• New rates, once set, are slated to appear on billing after July 1.

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Posted by on Jan 30th, 2013 and filed under Headline News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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