Council: Wastewater jump of 33%, refuse increase also proposed

June 10, 2005
Santa Paula City Council

Santa Paulans might be facing a whopping 33 percent increase in wastewater service fees and a hefty 7.85 percent jump in refuse collection charges.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesSanta Paulans might be facing a whopping 33 percent increase in wastewater service fees and a hefty 7.85 percent jump in refuse collection charges. The City Council will discuss the proposed increase in fees at the June 13 meeting.The public session will start at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall Council Chambers, 970 E. Ventura Street. The meeting will be televised live on Adelphia Cable Channel 10 and rebroadcast later.The discussion raising fees will be included in the package presenting the proposed 2005-2006 budget, which is facing a deficit of $239,912 - almost all due to another anticipated state cut - that will be tackled by reduced spending and the elimination of two positions, which might require the layoff of one employee. Still, initial savings will still leave a deficit of $181,457.The increased wastewater charge - a proposed $8 per month - is to help cover the costs of the city’s planned $50 million-plus treatment plant, expected to be completed in late 2008. The fee for refuse service - $2 a month - is needed to replace deteriorated equipment in the Solid Waste Enterprise Fund, according to the staff report. The increase is also projected to cover the costs of rising operational expenses, including fuel prices and the reduction in county-provided recycling support services.
The proposed General Fund operating budget is just under $9.35 million, the enterprise funds - sewer, water and trash - about $11.6 million and capital budget $6.76 million, for an overall budget of $27, 696,635. In FY 2005-2006, the city will spend $2,501,926, 26 percent of the General Fund budget or 55 percent of salaries for employee retirement, health and worker’s compensation benefits.The cost for deposits into the California Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) has skyrocketed by 1020 percent over the last four years, from $151,188 in FY 2000-2001 to $1,694,315 in the upcoming fiscal year. Initially the PERS increases to California cities were promised to be nominal, but “Now the increases are causing many cities significant financial difficulties,” which Santa Paula is addressing in current negotiations with employee bargaining units, noted the report by City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz. But, he adds later in the report, “We must address equitable salaries and benefits for all our employees. We are living on borrowed time when it comes to adequately addressing this issue.”When it comes to the projected deficit, the governor’s proposed reduction of property tax returned to the city in the upcoming state budget is $233,227, the “second and hopefully last year that the city will forego property tax revenue to the state,” noted Bobkiewicz’s report.Suggested cuts include the elimination of the two SPPD Police Commander positions, a move that would replace the commanders with a new Assistant Police Chief. Salary, overtime and other benefit adjustments would be $126,006, including $30,000 overtime costs for fire department personnel.The public hearing for the proposed rate increases for wastewater and refuse collection will be held June 20.

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