The Board of Supervisors this week honed in on a solution for storm water rates.
In May, the board rejected a recommendation from the Utility Finance Oversight Committee to raise rates by 25 percent this year and 35 percent in the following two years.
Thursday, the board quickly narrowed alternatives presented by the Public Works staff and decided on a one-time rate hike sufficient to cover the cost to bond for capital improvement projects.
Public Works staff will return to the board with a final proposal, but the rate hike will likely be between 25 to 30 percent so the city can issue $5 million in bonds to pay for six projects.
“Those are the items that need to be taken care of today,” said Darren Schulz, Public Works director.
The bulk of that would go to storm drain improvement projects on Carson Street, from 5th Street to Clearview Drive, and also include work in Lakeview and on Kings Canyon Road.
The estimated rate hike would mean rates for single-family properties would rise from $4.38 today to between $5.48 and $5.70 while rates for commercial properties would go from $31.51 currently to between $39.39 and $40.96.
Initially, the goal in raising rates was to cover the costs of the projects without bonding because the department spent $568,000 on debt service in 2017, more than twice what it spent on capital improvement projects.
But borrowing is currently a good option because interest rates are low.
“Bonding right now is really cheap money and we’d be remiss if we didn’t make that part of the solution,” said Schulz.
Public Works also plans in 18 months to conduct a rate study on water, sewer and storm water rates.
Water and sewer rates were bumped up for five years starting in 2013, in part to meet financial goals set by the board, but storm water rates were never raised.
Storm water rates currently comprise five tiers with some inherent inequities the city wants eventually to redress.
“The current structure is too simplistic,” said Andrew Fromdahl, during public comment, whose home is located in a residential office zone, putting it in a commercial zone. “Please tell me my rate is not the same as Walmart’s.”
Commercial rates depend on the number of parcels, but properties of varying sizes — a business with five parking spots versus one with 100 — do pay the same rates if they’re located on the same number of parcels.
Supervisor Brad Bonkowski suggested the immediate rate hike be $2 across the board, in part to make up for the unfairness, but the board decided to stick with a percentage increase that would affect all tiers equally.
“If we do it on a flat rate then we’re making a decision on rate design,” that should be made after a rate analysis, said Mayor Bob Crowell.
The board also heard on first reading an ordinance on hangar use policy for aircraft storage at Carson City Airport and approved a master plan draft for 911 Surcharge which will raise rates to cover the cost of body cameras for the Sheriff’s Department soon to be required by law.
The day-long meeting, which included an afternoon focused on recreational marijuana, started off tensely with two public comments.
Both concerned Bonkowski, who was recently fined by the state Commission on Ethics for not disclosing a conflict of interest and abstaining during a board vote last year on an amendment to an agreement with the Nevada Department of Transportation.
Both Bruce Kittess and Jerry Vaccaro, who filed the complaint with the ethics commission, said Bonkowski should resign.