Study looks at utility rate increases in Camas

Proposed rates have not been approved by the City Council

Proposed rates have not been approved by the City Council

A consultant study recently recommended that Camas consider raising its utility rates during the next five years to help fund items including future capital improvement obligations, and investment in maintaining the current system.

Angie Sanchez Virnoche and Sergey Tarasov, of the consultant company FCS Group, provided the Camas City Council with the results of the recent study of water, sewer, storm water and sanitation utility rates.

The analysis assumed a half-percent of customer growth for water and sewer services, and 1 percent customer growth for storm water and sanitation services. Also built into the rate increases were operating and capital reserves for each fund. The goal of the study was to develop a rate system that would be self-supporting to the utilities.

Proposed increases for the next five years beginning in 2014 are 5 percent each year for water rates; 3 percent each year for sewer rates; 4.75 percent each year for storm rates; and for sanitation rates 2.75 percent increases in 2014 and 2015, and 2.5 percent increases for the following three years.

According to the study, a bi-montly residential bill with all four rate increases combined would bump up a typical customers’ payment from the current $192.77 to $229.70 by 2018.

Among the items highlighted that could be supported by the future additional funding include the hiring of a new utility manager, as well as hiring a new sanitation employee and purchasing a sanitation truck in 2018.

In addition, some funding for improvements that will need to be made in the city’s north urban growth area were factored into the rate increases, however, the study results assumed that two-thirds of the cost associated with this potential expense would be paid using outside funding.

“That’s a big assumption in terms of that there is going to be some outside contribution, should that particular area need capital projects and then move forward,” Virnoche said.

The NUGA is made up of 1,171 acres north of Lacamas Lake that was approved for annexation by the City Council in April 2008. A development agreement for 460-acres of that area, referred to as Lacamas Northshore, was recently the subject of a development agreement approved by the City Council.

The FCS Group Utility rate study was approved by the City Council in April as part of a $85,330 professional service contract.

The city’s last utility rate study, completed in 2008, was also conducted by FCS Group. The city council ended up approving a series of utility rate increases in 2009, which were then implemented annually from 2010 through 2013.

Mayor Scott Higgins said prior studies and subsequent rate increases done over a longer period of time have worked to make the impact less drastic for customers.

“I appreciate the work we did before,” said Mayor Scott Higgins. “Nobody loves increases of any kind, but most of these look like cost-of-living [increases]. That is a good thing, and I know that we would not be in that case had there not bee work done throughout the years.”

The City Council is expected to discuss the issue again at a future meeting. Public Works Director said the hope is to get increases in place as part of the 2014 budget discussion.