An increase in utility rates and a reduction in Public Works staffing were part of the 2014 budget passed on first reading by the Castle Rock City Council during their Nov. 25 meeting.
In anticipation of higher loan payments for recent infrastructure projects, the base rate and per-usage rate for water/sewer services was increased by 3.5 percent while the storm-water rate was increased two percent.
According to City Clerk Ryana Covington, the average Castle Rock household uses around 600 cubic feet of water per month, meaning the typical utility customer will see an increase of $4.89 per month to their bill, bringing such rates to $151.28 per month (including all fees and taxes).
These increases have been coupled with the elimination of two full-time positions within the Public Works Department in an effort to keep overall expenses from increasing during the next year. Covington said department heads had been directed by Mayor Paul Helenberg to submit budgets with zero increases in expenditures due to the continuing decline in state and federal sources of income, as well as local tax revenues.
Also eliminated in the budget was the position of a part-time Exhibit Hall Director, a position which has been in jeopardy as hotel/motel taxes have fallen off in recent years.
Covington stated city leaders felt it would be unfair to offer the position if compensation depended on irregular donations to the Exhibit Hall, and said City Hall has been speaking with the Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce and the Exhibit Hall Society to determine what services, if any, are to remain available at the Exhibit Hall.
The council had already transferred $6,175.54 from the city’s general fund to the Exhibit Hall’s fund back in July to pay for insurance on the building, funding which is considered a loan and required to be paid back to the general fund at current interest rates and within three years.
The budget still needs a second reading before being officially approved, and is required by state law to be passed by Dec. 31. Covington said those who still have input to offer are able to do so during upcoming council meetings.
The next council meeting is scheduled for Dec. 9 at 7:30 in the Senior Center. Those with questions or in need of accommodations can call (360) 274-8181.