Longview considers utility rate increase

By Amy M.E. Fischer
Longview, OR (December 8, 2009)- The Longview City Council on Thursday will consider hiking utility rates for 2010 to help pay for new water and sewer treatment plants. The City Council also will consider a proposal to pay for the city’s urban forestry program- which maintains city trees- out of stormwater fees.

City staff members have proposed rate increases of 13 percent for water, 9 percent for sewer and 7 percent for stormwater. Garbage collection rates would remain the same.
Urban forestry now is paid for out of the general fund, competing with police, library, parks, and other essential services. Stormwater management, on the other hand, has its own dedicated account that is funded by stormwater fees. Paying urban forestry costs out of the stormwater program would free up $360,000 in the general fund for other expenses, according to Public Works Director Jeff Cameron.
Using utility fees for other purposes is generally prohibited. But in this case, the reallocation would be allowed because trees and vegetation are increasingly considered “green infrastructure” because they reduce stormwater runoff and reduce pollution.
Redistributing urban forestry expenses to the stormwater fund would mean raising 2010 stormwater rates by 29 percent- rather than just 7 percent. However, because stormwater costs are much lower than other utility rates- $4.06 per household- a 29 percent hike would add only $1.17 a month to the average residential utility bill.
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Longview considers utility rate increase