GEARHART — Gearhart water users within the city limits could see a drop in their water rates this year, because of overall efficiencies in the water system and higher sales.

City Administrator Chad Sweet told the city’s budget committee Thursday night that rates could drop as much as $10 on minimum monthly water bills of $42.

He also told the committee that the city’s Public Employees Retirement System costs will total $116,000 during the 2013-14 fiscal year, which starts July 1.

That amount is actually down slightly from the current year’s costs of $129,417.

In 2010-11, PERS cost the city only $13,941, but the PERS rates have increased dramatically to make up for losses the state pension fund incurred several years ago. Only three of the city’s nine full-time employees are on the highest tiers of PERS, Sweet said. The remaining employees were hired after the state reduced the benefit levels.

Because more money than was needed had been placed in the city’s PERS account over the past few years, the hit to the city’s $1.53 million general fund this year won’t be as hard as it could have been, Sweet said. The city had a cash carryover of nearly $40,000 in the PERS account, he said.

The largest revenue source for the city is property taxes, which are estimated for next year at $459,789, only a 2 percent increase over the current year.

But lodging taxes are expected to total $180,000, up by 17 percent this year over last year’s budget, because of an increased number of rooms in the city and higher-than-expected occupancies.

Revenue from building permits, however, is flat, with $92,000 budgeted for next year, which is the same amount budgeted last year.

Property taxes will remain the same at $1.0053 per $1,000 assessed valuation. On a house assessed at $300,000, the city’s property tax bill would be $301.50.

In the budget Sweet proposed and the budget committee adopted, salary increases of 1.7 percent, which meet the federal cost-of-living adjustments, are included. He also proposed two 5 percent step increases for two employees and a 10 percent “merit and responsibility” increase for Public Works Director Mark McFadden, who is managing the city’s new water system. McFadden, whose salary would be brought up to $53,766, could earn another 10 percent increase in the next fiscal year if he completes a certification process, Sweet said.

The salary for Sweet, who earns $70,00, will be raised to $75,000, if the City Council approves the proposed budget.

The budget also calls for contributions to several local and Clatsop County nonprofit organizations. They are:

• Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District Youth Center, $500

• Clatsop County Animal Control, $300

• Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), $2,500

• Seaside Hall, $1,000

• South County Food Bank, $5,000

• Partners for Seniors, $1,500

• Clatsop Community Action, $3,000

The budget committee also agreed to begin building an emergency preparedness reserve fund in the budget for 2014-15. The proposal was made by City Councilor Dan Jesse.

With approval by the city budget committee, the budget will go to the City Council for approval. 

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