CITY HALL — Everything from water to trash pickup will likely be more expensive after the City Council on Tuesday tentatively approved raising rates to help meet increased costs.
The fee hikes must still come back June 22 for a final vote as part of the city’s overall $785-million budget, where it is expected to pass.
The council voted 4 to 1 to raise water rates by 13.5%, averaging out to an additional $7 per month for residents, according to a city report. The cost of electricity would increase by 2.9%, or roughly $5 per month, beginning midyear, under the plan. High-end users can expect an average hike of $10.
Councilman David Gordon, who cast the lone dissenting vote, implored his colleagues to give residents a temporary reprieve, given the sluggish economy and relatively high unemployment. But the rest of the council said the rate hikes were needed to cover cost increases, supply challenges and reduced revenue for city departments.
“It makes sense to pass along those costs,” Councilman Dave Golonski said. “I know it’s painful. But I think we’ve been served well. We have a well-managed utility.”
Bob Olson, chairman of the Burbank Water and Power Board, said his colleagues did not recommend the proposed rate increases lightly.
“In order for the electric and water divisions to avoid deficits and continue to provide the service demanded by the community, rate increases had to be proposed by the staff for the current year,” Olson said.
Officials also cited state legislation that requires communities to reduce their utility usage, thereby affecting the bottom line of Burbank Water and Power.
“Not to minimize their impact,” Olson said, "[but] the proposed increases are a function of achieving those worthy preservation goals, taking into account the increased cost of a restricted water supply, operating a safe and reliable public utility system and ensuring its financial strength.”
The need for higher rates also reflects more expensive groundwater production, high wholesale costs and other financing expenses, officials said.
The water rates charged to customers would depend on how much they use, with the largest water users expected to see 15% hikes.
The public outcry over the rate increases was significantly less compared with previous years, when dozens of residents mailed letters and lined up to protest proposed hikes.
The electric budget is driven primarily by poorer economic conditions, higher costs for coal and fluctuating natural gas prices. Officials attributed the rise in electric rates to the increased cost of the power and the added expense of pursuing cleaner, newer energy sources.
Rates for trash collections will increase 8% to $2 more per month on average. The 5% rate increase for sewer service was in line with the council’s direction in 2006-07 to smooth out a 28% fee hike over five years due in part to higher charges passed on by Los Angeles for wastewater treatment services.
The adopted fee schedule includes increases of $5 for all parking citations — $20 for animal adoptions and $25 for impounded vehicles, among dozens of other charges.