Water and sewer rates in Tigard are now set to rise at the beginning of the new year. But a planned increase in the city’s parks and recreation fee has been put off until next July.
After lengthy debate, the Tigard City Council approved this plan at its Oct. 27 meeting with a split 3 to 2 vote. Mayor Jason Snider and Councilors John Goodhouse and Tom Anderson voted in favor of the increase, while Councilors Heidi Lueb and Liz Newton voted against the move.
The utility rate increase was originally scheduled for July 1 of this year, but was delayed by the Council because of the economic effects from the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the new plan, this increase will now take place Jan. 1, with another increase set to take effect July 1, 2021.
“We recommend that there not be any adjustment of those rates,” said Public Works Business Manager Joe Barrett. “They would go into effect on January 1, and the regular rate increase would come up in July.”
Councilors considered delaying both the utility rate increase and parks fee increase until July of next year, but declined to hit utility customers with a double rate increase at one time. They also emphasized that both residential and business customers who are struggling to pay utility bills will remain eligible for assistance until at least July 1 of next year through the Tigard AID program.
“I’d hate to see a double increase when we still don’t know what the landscape will be like in July,” Goodhouse said. “What I’m trying to avoid is a double increase in July after the AID program is over and we don’t know what the economy is going to do.”
When it comes to the parks fee, councilors agreed to hold off a planned increase of $1.52 per month per household until July 1, 2021. That fee would largely pay for maintenance costs for the city’s existing parks. It would not go toward new facilities.
The Tigard City Council and Budget Committee held a lengthy discussion both utility and parks fees at an earlier Oct. 3 meeting.
“I think we made the right decision in May as a council and as a budget committee to not increase (utility) rates as of July 1 when we didn’t know what the economic impacts would be,” Snider said at that meeting. “We still don’t totally know the impacts, but we also know the economy has not completely fallen.”
Public Works officials say the rate increase is critical to ensuring the City’s utility infrastructure is maintained properly.
“I guess our over-arching message to you is that further rate increase delays will have substantial negative impacts on our systems,” Public Works Director Brian Rager said. “The costs of our service haven’t decreased since COVID-19 began, and that’s the challenge,”
In October the Council expanded the Tigard AID program through June 30, 2021, to provide utility payment assistance to renters of multi-family housing with an unemployed or underemployed person in the household due to COVID-19 and extends a waiver of late fees and shutoff actions until Apr. 1, 2021.