- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 11, 2014

BAKER, La. (AP) - Despite facing a $171,000 shortfall in the city budget, the Baker City Council has voted against raising sewer and water rates.

The Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/SMS5GR ) Tuesday’s move might mean decreased police and fire services and possibly salary cuts for elected officials and department heads.

Before the vote, the council heard from residents such as Betty Johnson, who argued that the city should ask for a tax if it needs more money instead of raising utility rates. “The citizens of Baker shouldn’t have to bear the burden of mismanagement. There was a surplus in utilities last year, and it was transferred to the general fund,” she said.

A decrease in the city’s fire rating would cost homeowners a lot more than the proposed $6 per month water rate hike because their homeowner’s insurance premiums would rise, Fire Chief Danny Edwards said.

Without the extra utility funds, Edwards says the fire department will have difficulty maintaining its current level of service.

The failure of the utility fee increase could also mean residents may have to wait longer for police, because fewer officers would be available, officials said.

The proposal called for increasing the flat water fee from $9 to $15 per month for residents inside the city. The per gallon usage would have gone up from $1.50 to $1.75 per thousand gallons. Calculated based on an average household usage of 4,000 gallons, most homeowners’ per gallon total cost would have increased $1 per month.

The sewer rate would have gone up from $14 to $16 per month for residents.

The proposal also called for tying utility rates to the Consumer Price Index, which would have allowed the city to raise rates to keep up with inflation.

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Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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