Enumclaw council acts on garbage fee increase, drop in natural gas rate

As city officials plow through the laborious process of crafting a 2012 municipal budget, something that hits residents in the pocketbook is the fee structure for various city-provided utilities.

The preliminary budget coming out of City Hall calls for 3 percent increases in the rates charged for both water and sewer services, a 2 percent increase in garbage collection fees and a 5 percent hike in the fee charged for disposal of yard waste.

It was noted the water and wastewater increases are based upon a jump in the Consumer Price Index for the Seattle region. Projected salaries paid to Water Department employees are down from the past two years and it’s figured staffing will take a slight hit. In the wastewater division, salaries are projected to hold steady for the third year in a row while collected revenues fall from 2011 levels.

The solid waste increases reflect the growing cost of getting rid of garbage and yard waste. The preliminary budget shows tipping fees will climb at the county landfill on Jan. 1, while fees for getting rid of yard waste at Cedar Grove Compost will climb as well.

While any increase takes its toll on household budgets, the news was worse until this week. The mayor's preliminary budget called for a 4 percent increase in garbage collection and a 10 percent hike in yard waste disposal. During the Nov. 14 meeting of the city council, Public Works Director Chris Searcy said expenditures appear to be well under budget, so the proposed increases were sliced in half.

A bit of good news from the utility side of the budget comes in the area of natural gas, where the council has adopted an across-the-board 5 percent rate decrease. The lesser rate is retroactive to Nov. 1 for residential and commercial customers.

Searcy explained the city's contracted cost for natural gas recently dropped and rates for future supplies have been locked in. The natural gas utility has secured a fixed price for approximately 80 percent of its anticipated demand through October 2012 and 40 percent of its needs from November 2012 through March 2013. The remainder is to be purchased at market rates.

The 5 percent decrease will amount to a savings of about $5.32 during winter months to the average single-family user. Annually, the savings are pegged at about $38.

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