Eugene homeowners may see a 7.5 percent increase in their monthly storm water fee starting Aug. 1 and as much as a 27.5 percent increase over the next six years, after the Eugene City Council took a step in that direction at its July 11 meeting.
The motion is an emergency measure to help boost the city’s stormwater reserve funds, which have reached a dangerously low level. Only two weeks of the program’s reserve budget are left.
The City Council’s 5-3 vote is not the final decision on the matter, but instead authorizes city staff to prepare a final resolution for a final vote on whether to increase the fee by 7.5 percent in the next year and an additional four percent each year for the next five years.
As of press time, the council had not yet decided to make the final vote at a work session on July 13 or postpone their vote until the July 25 council meeting. If the motion passes on July 13, Eugene homeowners will see their rates go up on Aug. 1. No public hearing is planned. Eugene homeowners already saw a 13 percent increase in their storm water fee between 2015 and 2015. Small homes currently pay a $8.90 monthly fee. The first year of the proposed fee increase (7.5 percent increase) would raise a small home’s stormwater fee to $9.57; the next five years of increases would raise it to $12.02.
“From 2012 to 2015, we had a deficit in the stormwater fund and we used all the reserves to hold down rate increases,” said councilman Alan Zelenka, who voted for the motion.
The stormwater reserve funds are depleted in part because, over the past 10 years, the city has pushed about $2.5 million in other city services onto the budget of the storm water reserve funds, city engineer Mark Schoening said. Two of those services are the city’s riverbank cleanup program and the street leaf pickup program.
City Councilor George Brown voted against the motion, saying he feels the city is “backfilling” programs like the riverbank cleanup program with money from other programs. He said the city’s Public Works Department paid $250,000 last year to clean up homeless camps along Amazon Creek and the Willamette River; the new fee increase will pay for that service.