WEDNESDAY, MAY 1, 2013 – Mayor Charlie Hales unveiled his proposed budget for 2013-14 on Tuesday. One of the centerpieces of his proposal is a historic slowdown of rate increases for water and sewer.
When Hales took office in January, water rate increases of up to 14 percent were under discussion. “There’s no way we could ask Portlanders to absorb that kind of increase,” Hales said.
He began the annual budget-writing process by asking every bureau to propose a budget at 90 percent of current services. In April, rate increases of 7.85 percent of sewer and 7.8 percent for water were recommended.
Hales said “no,” asking both bureaus to pare back their recommendations.
The mayor’s budget calls for an increase of 5.33 percent for sewer, and 3.6 percent for water.
Combined, the two would increase the average, single-family utility bill by $4.13 per month.
Rates can’t be zero, thanks to inflation and the need to replace or repair a system with decades-old pipes. For instance, the city sewer system operates on an estimated 2,500 miles of pipe. And approximately one third of the pipes are 80 years old or older.
Lightening the Load on Rates
Below is a summary of programs that were shifted from utility rates to the general fund, to lighten the load on rate-payers:
Bureau of Environmental Services (sewers) – $2,293,921
- Invasive Species removal (Protect the Best) $125,000
- Tree plantings (Friends of Trees contract work) $685,552 ongoing
- Tree plantings (one-time) $125,000
- Grey to Green Youth Conservation Corp $175,000
- Elm Tree Protection $62,500
- Tree inspector $81,000
- Forest Park Ranger $72,000
- WillametteRiverStewardship $105,869
- Environmental Education and Outreach $112,000
- Street Sweeping $750,000
Water - $477,178
- Decorative Fountains $477,178