2013-12-19 / Front Page

Washington City Council to vote on 2014 city budget Fri. at 10 a.m.

The City of Washington held a public hearing Friday, December 13, to hear public concerns over the city’s $18 million 2014 budget, and the council will meet at 10 a.m. Friday to formally adopt the annual budget, despite the fact that several items are not yet ironed out.

“They had a thorough discussion about several items on the budget,” said City Administrator Mike Eskew. “There were several members of the public there, far more than the usual one or two who come to budget hearings.”

Up for consideration are funds used to hire an assistant city administrator, the level of funding for Family Connection, and other possible cuts.

The new budget also includes utility rate increases of 7.5 percent for water and sewer service, and some increase in electricity rates. “Our wholesale electricity rates have gone up 67 percent since 2008, and we’ve only passed on a two percent increase to the ratepayers, so it’s going to have to go up a little,” Eskew predicted.

Facing those annual increases in the wholesale cost of the electricity the city sells to utility customers, the council historically has been reluctant to pass on large rate increases to electric customers. The wholesale price of electricity has risen an average of 9.45 percent a year for the last six years. The city raised utility customers’ retail electricity prices by 2 percent in 2008, 2 percent in 2009, 1.5 percent in 2010, but held off any rate increase in 2011 and 2012.

In the past, city leaders have held down the electric rate increase by using millions of dollars in MEAG trust returns to pay down the wholesale MEAG bill, effectively borrowing that money from the city’s reserve account to ease the burden on household utility bills.

In addition to the budget vote, the council will hold hearings for the license renewal applications for holders of several distilled spirits package and pouring licenses.

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