Depoe Bay and Gleneden Beach residents will see an increase in water and sewer rates starting with their Oct. 31 bill, while visitors to Depoe Bay may also soon pay more in transient lodging tax.
The Depoe Bay City Council approved new water and sewer utility rates for its customers during its Tuesday night meeting. With this change, customers’ monthly base rates will increase by roughly $4, per year, while usage rates will increase around 30 cents for water and 60 cents for sewer, per 1,000 gallons. This same increase will be implemented annually over the next 10 years, according to a rate table provided with Tuesday’s agenda packet.
The utility rate increase comes after the council reviewed a study last month conducted by FCS Group, a financial planning and utility consulting firm. Such studies are required every 10 years, and the city’s prior study was conducted in 2009.
The new study presented the necessary rate increases to maintain the city’s water and sewer systems over the next decade and included different rate increase models for whether or not Depoe Bay maintains its agreement with the Gleneden Sanitary District.
According to the study, the increases are required to help maintain the system and fund necessary renovation projects on it over the next 10 years.
The current rate change also reflects the rate required if Depoe Bay maintains its current agreement with Gleneden Sanitary, but can be changed depending on whether or not the council decides to end Depoe Bay’s agreement to provide water and sewer service to the nearby community in the near future.
The new rate schedule is effective Sept. 1, with customers seeing the first changes to their Oct. 31 bills.
During discussion, Councilor Jerome Grant said he was concerned that the FCS contractors who conducted the study may have been influenced by past Depoe Bay leadership. He added that he wished he’d asked them during their visit last council meeting if anyone had given them specific directions during their study that may have influenced the results.
Grant was particularly concerned about the financial impact of dropping service to Gleneden Beach, which the study presented as an option.
“At least since my time on the council, there’s been such a push by virtually every mayor to drop service to Gleneden,” Grant said. “I just want to make sure that this study is free from anyone’s influence.”
Additionally, Grant said there was a discrepancy in the previously discussed increase amount, noting it was now 11 percent and was previously discussed at 22 percent.
Councilor Fran Recht was unable to attend the meeting, but she sent a statement on the increase, which was read by City Recorder Barbara Chestler.
In the statement, Recht argued such a steep increase in utilities may end up being a burden on some residents and asked the council to consider the possibility of an assistance fund to help those who may struggle the first six months as a result.
Councilor Lindsy Bedingfield argued that the city doesn’t have a choice about whether or not to accept the current rate increase and that they must accept it, inviting anyone with concerns to review the contractor’s study.
“We really have very little choice on our billing rates,” Bedingfield said. “The document our contractor gave to us, anyone can come in and read it and look at the conclusions. I think this will be hard on certain families and members of our communities, but without a tax base, we don’t have a choice but to do this to shore it up.”
Transient room tax
The council also approved the first reading of an ordinance to raise the city’s transient lodging tax rate to 12 percent during the meeting, with a second reading set for its Sept. 21 meeting.
A memorandum on the change from Chestler states the approved resolution amends the city’s existing ordinance, increasing the current tax rate from 9.5 percent to 12 percent, which will be equivalent to Newport’s recent rate change and that of Warrenton.
In addition to the rate increase, the ordinance will revamp the city’s transient lodging tax procedures to meet state standards and laws, mirroring sample ordinances prepared for the city by the League of Oregon Cities and the city’s host compliance service provider, Granicus.
The revamp does not affect where short-term rentals are allowed within the city limits.
At least 70 percent of funds generated by the tax must go to tourism-related purposes within the city, while 30 percent can go to the city’s general fund.
In addition to the change, the council approved a $9,200 contract with Granicus, a software company offering host compliance services for short-term rental properties. The agreement would help the city identify short-term rentals in the city, and the company offers associated services on request, such as tax collection for transient room tax.
Other notable agenda items from the Tuesday meeting:
• Lincoln County Emergency Manager Jenny Demaris gave a presentation on the upcoming 2022 Cascadia Rising emergency preparedness event.
• The council approved a $3,700 capital expenditure to expand the city’s memorial wall.
• It was announced that the League of Oregon Cities canceled its annual conference, making a resolution to designate three delegates from the council unnecessary.
• Harbor Commissioner Liz Martin gave an update on the recent addition of envelopes and windshield tickets at the harbor launch ramp, which is meant to help with launch fee collection. Martin added that the Harbor Commission was working on a report on how much money has been collected since the launch fee rate was increased to $10.