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Langley's 2014 budget calls for rate hikes, mayoral salary adjustment | CLARIFIED

By BEN WATANABE
South Whidbey Record Sports, Langley, South Whidbey Fire/EMS
November 4, 2013 · Updated 11:19 AM
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Boy and Dog Park stair renovations are part of Langley’s proposed 2014 budget. / Ben Watanabe / The Record

Water, sewer and stormwater rates may rise for Langley residents.

Utility fees for Langley residents could spike as much as 6 percent next year, according to Langley Mayor Fred McCarthy’s 2014 budget proposal.

McCarthy will present the draft plan to the city council Monday, Nov. 4, at City Hall. The included rate adjustment proposes a hike of 3 to 6 percent, and McCarthy is not expecting approval of the larger number.

“I think the council will opt for the lower-end numbers,” said Mayor Fred McCarthy.

Water rates were changed in 2012 to a monthly base rate of $30 up to 3,750 gallons for residential units.

Under the plan proposed by Public Works Director Maria Cablao, a single family residence would pay a fixed, bi-monthly rate of, at most, $88.90 or, at least, $86.38 for up to 8,000 gallons.

Commercial properties are slated to pay between $57.80 and $58.90 every two months, plus a 49-cent or 47-cent charge per 100 gallons.

Langley’s sewer fund is pegged to bring in nearly $373,000 in revenue, mostly from service rates. Expenses to operate the city’s treatment plant and sewer lines, however, is estimated to exceed its revenue by almost $54,000.

One of the issues stemming from Langley’s stable population, about 1,000 people for the past decade, is that neither sewage nor water use has increased. That has led to the city flushing the system more than originally anticipated and a less-than-optimal utilization of the treatment/compost facility on Coles Road.

“We’ve seen a significant drop-off in the amount of septage being brought here,” McCarthy said. “It was a good sustainable idea, but right now that fund needs some help.”

Among the line-item increases in the city’s budget is the mayor’s salary: $31,200 plus benefits. The city's ordinance calls for the mayor's salary to be $53,000 plus benefits. Former mayor Larry Kwarsick argued for a salary cut and cutting the position to part time.

McCarthy is looking to keep the job full time and reverse the scheduled mayor’s salary to $53,000 and $7,904 in benefits - an increase of 41 percent from the salary, originally budgeted during Kwarsick's administration.

In all, administration expenses are scheduled to jump from $34,800 in 2013 to $78,728 next year — that includes the changes to the mayor’s salary.

The proposal appears to have support from at least one city council member.

“I’m a strong supporter of a full-time mayor,” Councilman Jim Sundberg said. “I don’t think $53,000 plus benefits for a full-time mayor is unreasonable, especially if you divide it by the amount of time spent working.”

City operations in Langley are likely to be much the same if the draft 2014 budget is any indicator. Langley’s total budget is estimated to be $11,481,362, about $100,000 more from the $11.3 million 2013 budget.

Documents for the city’s General Fund show a nearly $20,000 dip in revenue and a similar drop in expenses for the coming year. That may be based on “conservative” estimates, totaling nearly $1,715,935, according to Sundberg.

“We’ll know a little bit closer to the end of the year if that expectation is accurate,” he said. “I think we’ll probably not have a revenue problem going into the new year.”

Sundberg noted, however, that Langley may use a 1 percent increase for inflation.

A major hope for the budget is from intergovernmental revenue such as grants, which will help fund the city’s overhaul of Second Street.

Langley’s police budget will be relatively similar, with a $5,000 increase. That could change, however, as acting Chief David Marks reviews the department’s police staffing needs. The Langley Police Department has enough money budgeted for three full-time officers and a chief, but it could be cut to two officers and a chief next year, depending on Marks’ evaluation.

What officers stay with the department are expected to receive a 2.8 percent pay increase along with the rest of Langley’s employees.

McCarthy said he revised Langley’s evaluation process for raises, which will likely qualify most of City Hall’s staff for a 1.8 percent wage bump, in addition to a 1 percent cost of living adjustment.

“My expectation is that the majority of employees would get the merit increase,” he said.

Intergovernmental revenue will likely be around its large estimate of $189,000 because the Langley City Council agreed to seek $175,000 in non-voter approved bonds earlier this year to help fund street and utilities work on Second Street. McCarthy said it is his hope to save enough money from those bonds to make either repairs or renovations to the stairs at connecting Seawall Park and Boy and Dog Park.

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