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Fee increases to get formal readings

April 15, 2002|BY SARAH MULLIN

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

The Martinsburg City Council will hold formal readings Tuesday on laws to increase garbage collection and fire protection rates in the city.

The council received copies of the proposed ordinances that would increase the rates at its meeting Thursday. The increases were recommended by the city finance director and city manager to make up for a projected $125,000 budget deficit.

Finance Director Mark Spickler said the fire fee increase would generate about $60,000 and the garbage fee $72,500.

"Every time we do a budget it is for the worst-case scenario ... the bare operating expenses," he said. "We may come to find out the projected revenues may come in higher, but it is hard to project that."

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The sanitation department does not bring in enough money to support its operating costs, Spickler said.

Residential garbage collection fees were increased by $25 in 1999 to $160 a year. Commercial collection fees were increased from $265 to $420 a year, based on one pickup per week.

Under the current proposal, residential fees would increase by $12, to $172 per year. Commercial rates would increase about $10 per week, to $525 a year.

There is an 18 percent discount on fees paid in full within 20 days after billing.

"Even if we doubled the rates they would be less than what a private hauler charges," Spickler said.

Stickler said he plans an internal investigation into revenue and expenditures in the city Sanitation Department.

The city's fire fee has not been increased since 1989.

The proposed increase in residential rates is $5 making the total annual bill $60.

Commercial rates, which are based on building square footage, will be adjusted to become more equitable.

Spickler said the current tier system is not fair because a 10,000-square-foot building is charged $464.50 per year and a 10,001-square-foot building is in the next tier and is charged $809.37 per year.

The proposal would change the tier system to a system under which building owners would be charged $.055 per square foot. The recommended minimum rate is $60.

A temporary cap would be placed on the maximum rate through fiscal year 2005.

There is also an 18 percent discount on the fire fees bill if it is paid within 20 days.

Bills are mailed from July through September.

Spickler said he and City Manager Mark Baldwin recommended the fee increases to avoid the potential need for larger increases in future years.

The council will conduct the first and second readings of the ordinances Tuesday and hold a public hearing before final readings and a vote on May 9.

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