Rate Hikes Cause Stir South Of Omaha

Proposed sewer and water rate hikes prompted the most comments from Plattsmouth City Council members as they received the 2013-2014 working budget plan. But overall the proposed budget has a slight decrease in the tax levy when compared to last year.

The Cassgram reports Plattsmouth City Administrator Erv Portis addressed the council from the podium during the budget presentation.

The proposed budget plan includes a 4% increase in base water and sewer rates. Portis said the water plant was built in 1972 and the sewage treatment plant was built in 1978. The age of those facilities means those plants will be “in need of updating,” said Portis, and right now there is no money in reserve. The increase in rates now would begin the funding for what will be needed in the future, he explained.

Paying for the federally-mandated combined sewer overflow project a couple of years ago increased the amount paid on city utility bills and some council members said they hear from citizens about how much they pay now.

The CSO loan payments are separate from the water and sewer rates, said Portis, and those will go away in 18 to 19 years.

“People are concerned already” about their city utility bills, said City Councilwoman Jeanie Brookhouser.

“It will be hard for us to sell additional water fees. We will hear about it big time,” predicted City Councilman Terry D. Tilson.

”But we’ve got to maintain what we have,” said Councilman Terry Kerns.

The budget has not received final approval. That is to come Monday (9/16).

Among the many points Portis made in his budget address:

-For the first time, the city will dip into the general fund to pay for the EMS budget. That allocation is $70,000 for 2013-14.

-2% increases are factored in the salaries except for the salary of Portis which will remain the same.

-The city will pay down another $100,000 on the tax anticipation note it took out a few years ago, reducing that debt to about $400,000.

-Costs associated with the flood of 2011 are still impacting the 2013-14 budget.

-The city will be re-assessing budget points connected with the community center and there may be some changes during the fiscal year.

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