Our View: Strive for rate equality
Rate increases are hard to swallow, particularly when they’re coming from all directions. Gasoline prices are up, utility costs are rising, and retail products are following suit.
There is a trickle-down effect, which the city of Craig is ready to pass on to customers.
We commend the Craig City Council for its commitment to a continual evaluation of costs in relation to rates so that increases come in manageable doses.
To that end, we agree that it’s time that the city looked at rates paid by county residents and the septic haulers who service them. City residents have borne the wastewater treatment plant’s increased cost of doing business for too long. Fees for dumping septage at the city’s wastewater treatment plant have not increased for 13 years.
Those who live within city limits pay an average of 4 cents a gallon for wastewater treatment. Those not connected to the city’s sewer lines pay 2.5 cents per gallon.
Some argue that those who use septic haulers pay for and maintain their own infrastructure — septic tanks, holding tanks or grease traps — which means they should bear their portion of the treatment costs and that’s all.
We agree that is something city officials should consider when evaluating rates.
However, the assumption that city property taxes pay for maintaining the city’s sewage infrastructure isn’t accurate. As an enterprise fund, the wastewater treatment plant gets all of its revenue from fees and none from taxes. And, those fees are not covering increasing operating costs.
In 2006, the plant will have to dip into its reserves to operate.
Clearly, changes are needed, and we commend city officials for considering all aspects of the plant operations before increasing fees. We urge them to make an in-depth assessment of costs and, should a fee increase be warranted, assess it equitably.
Waste treatment is the issue. Wastewater plant officials have said that treating septic waste is more difficult and cost-intensive than treating municipal waste.
That should be a factor in the city’s decision and something we hope septage haulers and county residents will think before mounting a protest.
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