College Place Council OKs water rate hike

The Council also started a budget preview.

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COLLEGE PLACE -- In an evening dominated by financial matters, the City Council approved the city's 2011 property tax levy Monday, an increase in water rates and previewed the budget for the coming year.

With three council members absent, the tax levy and water rate increase both passed unanimously. A public hearing on the budget was continued until the council's next meeting on Dec. 13.

Council members William Jenkins, Bernie Yanke, Steve Dickerson and Scott Duncan approved a 1 percent increase in the property tax levy, which is expected to result in an increase of $11,085 in property tax revenues next year. Council members Marge Nyhagen, Alexander Scott and Larry Dickerson were absent.

Although those revenues will increase, property owners will see a decrease in their combined levy rate, according to city Finance Director Robert Zielfelder. The decrease in property tax will amount to about $2.15 in property tax for a $100,000 home. The levy rate changes are due to the change in assessed valuation for the city, Zielfelder said in a memo prepared for the Council.

City Administrator Pat Reay said that despite a spat of new businesses going up in the city, "this (has been) one of our lowest assessed new construction years in a decade." New construction values have declined nearly 64 percent since 2006, from nearly $20 million to a projected total of about $7.2 million in 2011.

Another problem the city will face is that, for the first time in 10 years, it will not receive the full amount of 2010 property taxes certified and received by the county. This is due to the lower amount of collections by the county during 2010, which this year was 6 percent lower due to slow payment or nonpayment of property taxes.

After discussion, Council members also approved a $3 increase in the base rates for residential and commercial users. The increase is needed to pay for debt service on loans for construction of the Eastside Water Improvement Project, which has enabled the city to establish its own independent water system.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.

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