A preliminary version of Puyallup’s 2013 budget doesn’t factor in an increase in water, sewer or storm water rates. But Interim City Manager Bill McDonald said he’ll bring up the idea as part of budget discussions in the coming weeks.
The city hasn’t raised its utility rates in about three years, and they “should at least go up with inflation,” covering both operating and capital costs, McDonald said in an interview last week. “(With the existing rates), we’re not there.”
McDonald recently released his preliminary 2013 budget, and the City Council will go through it section by section. Council members started the process Tuesday, discussing budget areas including emergency management, the legal department and development services during a three-hour study session.
The total preliminary budget is about $94 million, including a $35.5 million general fund that pays for day-to-day government operations in the city of 37,000 residents.
This year’s adopted general fund is about $37 million.
Next year’s preliminary spending plan is based on conservative revenue projections, per the City Council’s policy, McDonald said. It includes a total net reduction of 10.5 staff positions, largely through attrition, from a senior assistant city attorney to an assistant building official. It also leaves three more positions unfunded – a patrol officer and two slots in public works.
The budget includes the standard 1 percent property tax bump and doesn’t dip into the general fund reserves – the city’s “rainy day money” – to cover operations.
Although the preliminary budget doesn’t factor in a utility rate increase, McDonald does recommend in the 360-page document that they rise 2.8 percent, which would index them to the inflation rate. He also recommends the council consider other rate increases, including for recreation programs.
“A good policy is for all rates to be indexed to inflation whenever possible,” the budget says.
Raising utility rates also came up during the budget process last year, with then-City Manager Ralph Dannenberg proposing a hike to cover utility system work.
The council ultimately decided against.
Mayor Rick Hansen said Tuesday that he expects a robust discussion when the council takes up the topic again in this budget cycle. The council didn’t spend much time talking about utility rates during this week’s study session, but two more budget meetings are planned this month, Oct. 23 and 30.
The council must adopt a 2013 budget by the end of the year.