City budget calls for water bill increase

Fort Dodge residents and businesses would face a 1.5 percent increase in their monthly water bills next summer under a proposed budget introduced to the City Council Monday evening.

That increase was among many facets of the spending plans for the city’s roads and utilities for 2014-2015 outlined during a council workshop session. The proposals unveiled Monday also call for hiring an engineer and another water plant operator, plus the purchases of several pieces of machinery.

Mayor Matt Bemrich asked City Manager David Fierke and his staff to present a balanced version of the roughly $2.6 million road use tax fund, which pays for road repairs, street sweeping and snow removal. Fierke said some of the planned equipment purchases may have to be postponed to produce a balanced budget.

The council is beginning its work on the budget for the fiscal year that will begin July 1, 2014, and will end on June 30, 2015. That budget must be submitted to the state by mid-March.

Water system budget

The budget proposal envisions spending $7,401,560 on the water system in 2014-2015.

That’s down from the current water budget of $7,510,966.

If approved by the council, the 1.5 percent rate increase would be effective on July 1.

Currently, homeowners pay $12.02 a month for using 2,000 gallons of water or less. That would increase to $12.21 per month.

For water usage between 2,000 and 8,000 gallons a month, homeowners pay an additional $3.57. That would rise to $3.62.

That increase would be the first of a series of 1.5 percent rate hikes over the next four years.

Fierke said approving a series of small rate hikes would avert the need for one large increase.

”It would be easier for the consumer to absorb these small ones,” he said.

The proposed water budget calls for hiring an additional water plant operator so that there can be two shifts working at the John W. Pray Water Facility on Phinney Park Drive.

The budget includes $180,000 to buy a new backhoe and a truck to be used for opening and closing large valves in the water system.

It also includes $60,000 for new water meters.

Road Use Tax

The road use tax consists of the city’s share of gasoline tax revenue and vehicle registration fees.

The proposed budget anticipates receiving $2,394,570 and spending $2,624,540.

The money would be spent on these activities:

– Road maintenance $725,850

– Snow and ice control $615,600

– City engineer’s office $396,500

– Forestry $261,200

– Street cleaning $129,300

– Electrical and traffic signals $120,750

– Street and storm sewer maintenance $93,000

Big ticket items in the proposal include a new snow plow truck ($180,000) and a leaf vacuum to be mounted on a truck ($40,000).

Public Works Director Greg Koch said 51 percent of the road use tax budget is spent to pay employees.

Sanitary sewer system

The budget proposal envisions spending $9,754,657 to run the wastewater treatment system.

The budget projects $9,621,548 in sewer bill revenue to pay for operating the system.

The biggest single piece of the sanitary sewer budget is the operation of the wastewater treatment plant at 1801 Ave. B, which is operated for the city by U.S. Water Utility Group. The city’s budget for the plant is $3,563,462.

Central garage

The Public Works Department’s central garage at 3001 Eighth Ave. S. has its own budget.

The proposed 2014-2015 spending for the central garage is $202,900.

The budget includes $70,000 for a new roof.