Utility-rate increases are part of larger budget talks

Burbank residents may be in for another round of utility-rate increases in July, as officials have proposed modest hikes during preliminary budget discussions.

Water rates will likely jump 4.75%, an increase that officials say is driven by hikes in wholesale water costs, as well as the need to pay off bonds used to fund major infrastructure projects, such as reconstructing Reservoir No. 1 and building a recycled-water system.

"We've got to recover the costs it takes to run the system. If you don't, you just wind up deferring rate increases to the future," said Bill Mace, the utility's assistant general manager. "It's much better to gradually raise them."

Even with the hike, the utility will still "under-recover" roughly $200,000, Mace said.

Meanwhile, electric rates will likely see a 2.9% increase, with both sewer and refuse rates also proposed to jump 2.5%.

The proposed sewer and refuse rate hikes are driven by operational costs, such as the cost of fuel, continuing to rise, said Public Works Director Bonnie Teaford.

A typical household, Teaford said, will see their combined sewer and refuse bills increase by $1.35 a month. Back-to-back "modest" rate increases, which ratepayers have faced in recent years, allow officials to avoid slapping a much larger rate hike all at once, Teaford said.

"We try to do it gradually so people have an opportunity to make adjustments," Teaford said.

With respect to the city's general fund, officials said the proposed $151-million budget is the first since fiscal year 2008-09 for which executives weren't asked to make any cuts, though the city's costs are still projected to grow faster than revenues.

Executives across a majority of city departments requested nearly $1.8 million in new expenditures for this coming fiscal year, with $458,951 of them being one-time costs.

The bulk of the one-time requests, or $397,054, are for the Burbank firefighter recruit academy, which would cover the salaries of 10 recruits, two training instructors and other related materials.

The $1.2 million in proposed new ongoing expenditures is spread across 10 departments. That includes $145,081 for the police department to hire a school resource officer.

A public hearing on the budget, including the proposed rate increases, is slated for June 3.


Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.


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