Utility customers getting a break

12:15 pm December 13th, 2012

The town of Eatonville is giving its utility customers some relief on their water, sewer, garbage and electricity bills.
The Town Council has approved lower utility percentages while also increasing the utility tax for one year. Most residents’ utility wills will not increase in the restructuring that officials said will generate about $300,000 in current-expense funds for the town.
According to officials, the move was made possible because the utility funds are strong enough to allow the temporary rate cut. It will take effect Jan. 1, 2013 and expire Jan. 1, 2014.
The rate reductions are 12 percent for water, six percent for sewer, 12 percent for refuse collection and eight percent for power.
The council voted 4-0 at its meeting Nov. 26 to authorize the change. The fifth council member, Jim Valentine, was absent and didn’t participate in the voting.
The action is the second break this year in favor of utility ratepayers. In February, the council rejected Mayor Ray Harper’s proposal to add a tax of 6 percent or less on electrical power, natural gas and telephone service. If the proposal had been approved, revenue from the new tax would have been directed to Eatonville’s fire and police departments, which have been struggling along with other town services for funding in the face of budget shortfalls.
Harper said in February that the town could “live without” the additional revenue the tax would have generated, but that fire and police services would be supported better financially with it. He said he wouldn’t propose the added tax again.
Town officials have been looking for ways to increase revenue in order to meet expenses for services such as public safety. In the election in November, a levy that officials projected would pump more than $160,000 into the town’s coffers was rejected by voters.
The town is facing an endof-2012 budget deficit of approximately $150,000.
At its meeting Monday, which was conducted after today’s print edition of The Dispatch went to press, thc council was expected to consider transferring funds from the town’s sewer and water accounts to the current-expense fund to close a $183,000 shortfall. The transfer is called an interfund loan and requires an interest charge of 3 percent.
Current-expense is the portion of the budget for operating much of the town government.

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