Additional news and notes from Tuesday’s South Milwaukee City Council meeting …
- The council gave final passage to a $50 monthly pay raise spread over the next three years. It would take effect after the April 2015 election. The vote was 7-0, with one abstaining.
- The council also voted 7-1 to give final approval to the Burger King restaurant proposed for the Walmart outlot on North Chicago Avenue. Construction is expected to begin this fall, with an opening yet this winter. I welcome Burger King to town.
The council also approved a shift in how we handle the “fire hydrant rental fee.”
Fire hydrants cost money to maintain, and we have traditionally put that cost on the tax levy. In an era of strict levy limits, that has been a burden on our city budget, as these costs increase. (For example, between 2009 and 2011, the actual expense for hydrant rental went up by more than $160,000, so our budgets had to reflect this increase – and the increase over the levy limit had to be absorbed in other parts of the budget.)
Going forward, these fees will shift from the levy and be added as a fee on your water bill.
What does this mean for you? The average homeowners will now see a fee which is estimated to be $26.12 each trimester ($78.36 annually) on their water bill, with the rate set on the size of their water meters. The fee is actually smaller than what homeowners are currently paying through the levy. That can happen because nonprofits — exempt from property taxes — will now begin paying this fee, thus “spreading out” this cost across more entities, similar to how we handle other water and wastewater fees.
While I recognize the added burden this will place on nonprofits, I support this shift from levy to fee as a more sustainable approach for our budget. Shifting this expense to the water/wastewater bill does mean the 2015 levy will have to decrease by the same amount (more than $600,000). But by moving the hydrant rental fee now, the levy reduction will be based on the current year’s hydrant expense … avoiding the impact of future water rate increases.
The Public Service Commission will determine the exact rate to be charged for each meter size in the coming months. And I’ll keep you posted.