Poulsbo City Council raises stormwater rates, will leave more in fund for improvements

POULSBO — The City Council voted to raise to $10.57 the monthly rate residents pay to support the city's stormwater utility, July 17. That's a monthly increase of $2.16 per household.

Residents will see the increase on their August utility bill.

A proposed increase was brought to the council July 10, but was voted down 4-3. Councilman Ed Stern, who led the nay votes at last week's council meeting, said the council's Finance/Administration Committee felt comfortable raising the stormwater rate.

"I indicated a willingness to reconsider the stormwater rate increase, because the needs are real and the requirements are real," Stern said Thursday. "I just wasn't satisfied with the rate that was being shown to the council last week."

The Finance/Administration Committee, backed by full council vote, decided to return the amount it takes from the stormwater fees for the general fund to 6 percent, permanently. That means more money in the stormwater fund for its operation. By committing to a 6 percent take, Stern said the city was better able to recalculate the monthly rate needed to ensure the fund can support projects and operations.

Public Works Director Barry Loveless said the fund has been operating in the red for the past five years because of regulatory burdens and the economic downturn.

The city takes a certain percentage from utility revenue for the general fund. Five years ago, the city took 6 percent from all utilities — water, sewer, stormwater and solid waste. To help balance the general fund during the recession, the council voted to increase its take to 8 percent two years ago, and 10 percent last year.

"By reducing [the take from] 10 percent to 6 percent, more money is going into the stormwater fund, going to pay for stormwater costs," Loveless said.

The intent of the rate increase is to generate funds that can be used to pursue and complete capital projects, Loveless said. The increase will generate an additional $16,000 a month for the stormwater fund.

Non-residential properties pay what is called an “equivalent residential unit” (ERU) rate for every 3,000 square feet.

The North Kitsap School District is the city’s largest customer, paying for 455 ERU at a cost of $3,826 per month. The district’s annual payment would increase by $13,200.

Members of the North Kitsap School Board were at last week's council meeting, and most school board directors said they supported the rate increase.

“As a resident, I hope you do it,” Board President Dan Weedin said. “I fully support it.”

The other utilities will be discussed during this year's budget cycle.

"This is just the beginning of further rate increase consideration," Stern said. "It's important we got the amount of utility excise tax to a fair and minimal amount before proceeding with this year's increase or any subsequent increase in years ahead."

The council will host a stormwater rate workshop during the budget cycle so residents can ask questions and understand this decision, Stern said. The workshop will be held this fall.


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