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Sewer rate hike talks prompt billing questions

South Kitsap residents may soon face a rate increase on their sewer utility, which raised concerns among those attending a public hearing on Wednesday about the per-house method of determining rates.

The Karcher Creek Sewer District, which will become West Sound Utility District when it consolidates with the Annapolis Water District in January, took public comment Wednesday following a proposal to increase sewer rates by 38.8 percent in yearly increments until 2010.

In 2008 the monthly rates will increase from $36 per household to $42, jumping to $46 in 2009 and settling at $50 in 2010, which could generate $250,300 for the district if the new rates are implemented by April of 2008.

District Manager Larry Curles said the increase is needed to replenish dwindling accounts held by the district, especially after lower-than-expected growth rates. New homes often help pay for utility projects through connection fees.

“The growth has not come in to pick up the slack we were hoping for,” Curles said.

Over the past few years the district has maintained a tight budget and consolidated resources with the water district to reduce expenses, but Curles said the situation cannot be fixed with budget cuts any longer.

“We are literally putting our hands between the cushions in the sofa for money,” he said.

The district has been able to continue operations and fund needed projects, but worries what would happen in an emergency.

“If there’s an unexpected event, we’re not ready for it,” Curles said.

But residents gathering at before the district commissioners questioned the per-house billing method, arguing that one- and two-person households on fixed incomes carry the expense for larger households.

Dennis Briggs of Lighthouse Drive requested the district examine its billing method and find a way to charge based on usage rather than on a per-household rate.

“I don’t mnd paying my fair share and then some,” he said. “But I don’t want to support it unfairly. If we’re going to chrge for that, let’s do it equitably. That family of eight over there is really happy paying $42 — I’m really unhappy, as a single resident, paying that $42.”

Members of the board said they would look into more equitable methods of billing, but Curles reminded residents that South Kitsap rates fall below other communities. Bremerton residents pay $60 for sewage, and many other communities are discussing increases also.

Residents then requested further transparency, suggesting that projects and expenses be more clearly outlined in the district’s twice-yearly newsletter and clearer notice for public meetings.

Visit www.karchercreek.org for more information on sewer rates.

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