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Sewer Fee Could Fix Budget and Pipes

A preliminary city budget for next year shows a deficit of $460,000, but officials say a proposed sewer fee could make up the shortfall and pay to repair broken and decaying waste-water lines.

During a workshop Monday, City Administrator Michael T. Uberuaga told the City Council he requested status-quo budgets from all city departments for 1997-98. But budget requests totaled about $101.6 million, up $4.5 million from this year’s budget.

Jumps in retirement and workers’ compensation costs and added equipment needs, including the city’s share of a new countywide public safety radio system, contributed to the increased budget requests, Uberuaga said.

The city expects about $101.2 million in revenue in 1997-98, leaving a deficit of $460,000 that Uberuaga said he’ll cut before presenting the tentative budget to the council for review Aug. 1. Unlike most cities with fiscal years beginning July 1, Huntington Beach’s new budget will go into effect Oct. 1.

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A proposed sewer fee of $3.39 per month would raise about $3.3 million, covering the deficit and paying for repairs to the city’s waste-water system that would otherwise have to come out of the general fund, according to city officials.

Public Works Director Les M. Jones told the council the fee would cover only one-third of needed repairs and maintenance, but would allow officials to fix the most decrepit of the city’s 81-year-old sewer pipes.

“This will give us a good start and a track record that we can follow,” he said.

In comparison, a monthly fee of $7.36 would raise $7.2 million and cover all the city’s annual sewer repair and maintenance costs. Jones said anything less would delay routine repairs and create potentially costly safety problems.

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The council will review the sewer fee at its July 7 meeting.


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