Enumclaw city hall. Courtesy photo

Enumclaw city hall. Courtesy photo

Hearings to focus on 2021 budget, property taxes, utility rate increases

It seems likely natural gas and waste disposal prices will be increasing.

A handful of ordinances, including several that will impact household budgets, are on the agenda for next week’s meeting of the Enumclaw City Council.

The decisions will involve everything from the overall budget for the coming year to utility increases, from property taxes to land use. In all, six ordinances were addressed during last week’s council session and are on the Nov. 23 agenda for final adoption.

Impacting customers’ pocketbooks are ordinances that would, if passed, increase rates for both natural gas and solid waste disposal.

When it comes to natural gas, the city last implemented a rate hike in 2015. But a variety of factors are working against the city-operated utility, according to a memo presented to council, which point toward a deficit of approximately $378,000 by 2023. Utilities are “enterprise accounts,” which require that revenues must match expenditures.

To ward off a deficit, city staff has proposed increases that would impact the average residential customer to the tune of an additional $2.79 per month and the average commercial customer by $4.26 per month. Also in the mix is a rate increase of $1.96 per month for low-income residential customers.

By way of comparison, city staff pointed out that, on a national average, natural gas customers pay a service charge of $11.25 per month for residential customers and $22 monthly for commercial customers. In the Pacific Northwest, rates are much lower, averaging $9.22 for residential users. Presently, Enumclaw’s residential rate is $6.25 monthly.

The proposed hike in waste disposal is largely tied to anticipated increases in getting rid of city-generated garbage, organic waste and recyclables. For example, King County has stated it will bump tipping fees (the amount they charge) from $141 per ton to $211 by 2025.

Enumclaw increased its solid waste rates in 2017, 2018 and 2019. There was no rate hike in 2020 but a jump of 5 percent is proposed for 2021. As a result, the average residential customer (with a 32-gallon container) would see an increase of $2.03 per month.

Also on next Monday’s agenda are both the adoption of the 2021 municipal budget and the property tax element of the revenue-and-expenditure plan.

Budget planning starts months in advance and hit its peak in early October when Mayor Jan Molinaro submitted his proposed budget to the council. The council massaged the numbers during four workshops and the public gets its final say on Monday.

The 2021 budget document shows total spending of a bit more than $41 million.

The property tax portion of the budget anticipates almost $2.2 million in collections. When all factors are considered, the city arrived at a rate of $1.25 per $1,000 of assessed value; so, the owner of property assessed at $400,000 can assume $500 to the city.

Several other taxing entities collect from local property owners, the largest being public education, pushing the total tax bill much higher.

In other action during their Nov. 9 session, members of the Enumclaw City Council:

• Listened as Molinaro took a moment – two days prior to Veterans Day – to honor those who served the country during the Korean War. At the time, he said, the conflict was billed as an international effort to combat the spread of communism.

The war, which lasted from June 1950 to July 1953, claimed the lives of an estimated 5 million soldiers and civilians on both sides of the conflict. Among those were almost 40,000 American service members; an additional 100,000 were wounded and 8,000 were listed as missing in action. Despite that, Molinaro reminded, it is often viewed as “the forgotten war.”

The mayor read a proclamation that will be forwarded to the local post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

A year ago, he had singled out veterans of World War II.

• Were reminded of the upcoming Hometown Holiday drive-through event coming to the Enumclaw Expo Center. The joint effort of the Expo Center and the Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce will run from 5 to 9 the evenings of Dec. 4, 5 and 6. More information is available at www.enumclawexpo.com.

The event takes the place (this year) of the annual holiday parade through downtown Enumclaw.

• Accepted, as complete, a project that saw improvements made to a building used by the city’s natural gas utility. Trinity Construction was responsible for adding a new foundation, replacing structural supports, repairing a damaged ceiling joist and adding new concrete floors.

The final contract amount was $70,300.

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