Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 20, 2013

Sewer rates likely to rise for city residents

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — City homeowners can expect their base sewer charge to jump over 6 percent beginning in July under a budget proposal before the city commission.

City Treasurer Bill Twietmeyer recommended the city raise its base charge from $32 to $34 a month. Residents who use more than the allowed base rate also will see a $2 increase from $38 to $40 per 1,000 cubic feet of water used.

City commissioners ignored past recommendations for fee increases in the base rate, but appear resigned this time to pass on the bump when they meet today at 7 p.m. at the Governmental Center.

"I hate paying it, too, but we've got to fix our sewers," said city Commissioner Jim Carruthers.

The increase will help the city cover the cost of replacing its older, deteriorating sewer lines. Many of the sewer pipes lie beneath city streets, and the condition of the sewer plays a role when the city decides which streets to fix, said City Manager Ben Bifoss.

The proposed budget will increase general fund spending on road repairs by $250,000 to $1.25 million. The more money the city pumps into roads, the more it needs to replace sewer lines. There also are operational cost increases the city has to address, Bifoss said.

The sewer fee is the only proposed general increase residents will face for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The city will maintain its millage rate of 11.1167 mills to cover a $13.6 million general fund, a 2.9 percent increase over the current year budget.

The city also won't raise its Act 345 millage dedicated to paying the cost of police and fire department pensions. The millage has risen regularly over the last decade, thanks to stock market losses, but strong returns over the last two years will keep it at 2.32 mills for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

The commission also will approve budgets for the Downtown Development Authority and Traverse City Light and Power. Neither reflect any significant changes from the current year, Bifoss said.

Lacking any program cuts, layoffs, or big-ticket items, Carruthers called this perhaps the quietest budget discussion he's endured in his six years on the city commission.