PRWID Proceeds with Tax Process
Last winter, the Price River Water Improvement District board not only discussed a possible property tax increase to shore up sagging finances, but also conducted the first of two public hearings on the matter.
On July 5, after a presentation by PRWID assistant Manager Jeff Richens, the board decided that the proposed increase would be the focus of the second required public hearing.
Indicating the district cannot absorb the inflationary costs of equipment, fuel, materials and operations, the district staff proposed increasing the property tax and sewer/water rates to shore up decimated budgets beginning with fiscal year 2006.
"We are supposed to keep a reserve for protection against bad times," pointed out Richens to the board. "But right now, that reserve is gone. We had to use it to meet our bond payments for 2005. At present the district is operating on a month to month basis."
The issue of increases had been under discussion since last fall when supervisors for various departments from the district submitted proposed budgets to the administration.
Formed in the early 1960s, PRWID has never asked for a property rate increase, according to the district.
PRWID is financially supported by rates for sewer and water as well as the ability of the entity to collect property tax.
The staff explained that increasing the tax and rates could bring the district back to a more viable financial state.
Currently, the water improvement district is only examining a property rate increase.
"We will have to look at a possible rate increase later. But for now, this is what needs to be done," stated Richens.
"We need to move from a .000586 mill levy to a .0008, which is the highest allowed by the law. The increase would be approximately $16.32 a year on a home that has a property assessment of $150,000."
Richens said the total tax bill levied by the district for a $150,000 home evaluation would be about $87 per year.
A $150,000 home is presently being taxed by the district at slightly more than $70.
The new assessment would add a total of $192,274 per year to the districts coffers.
Any increase would not take place until next year if passed. The possible vote by the PRWID board would be taken in August after a public hearing was conducted.
No date was established for a second public hearing at Tuesday's board meeting.
But the property tax hearing would probably take place at a regular board meetings scheduled on Aug. 2 or Aug. 16.
Board member Tom Matthews pointed out that it would be a good idea to go for the maximum amount because, with the financial situations up in the air with the increase in fuel costs and almost everything else, the improvement district may need the extra funding.
"The reason I think it would be good to ask for it isn't that I am for that type of increase, but because if we find we don't need that kind of money to support the district we can always reduce the levy," commented Matthews. "However, if we asked for a lower rate and found we needed more, we couldn't just automatically increase it."
The situation for special districts like PRWID is that the agencies must advertise a proposed increase twice and conduct two public hearings in connection with the matter. The session conducted last winter drew only a few people and the residents who spoke up at t he meeting supported the increase.
PRWID manager Phil Palme pointed out that, for the short term, income to the district is falling too.
"Like all water districts in the state, the wet spring and summer has meant less water being used by residents and that means a drop in revenues," he said. "It is a problem all districts have when wet years occur."
In an unrelated matter of business Palmer announced that the North Carbon Water Users Association has protested the move by the Carbon Canal to get water that it says it will commit to PRWID for the construction of a winter watering system for cattle, moved to a year round status.
"That letter of protest has gone to the state engineers office," said Palmer. "Now the state authorities must make a decision and I'm not sure when that will come."
At issue is the fact that some concumers on the proposed culinary system for cattle owners want to not only use water from the new system in the winter, but also in the other seasons as well. In the past the Carbon Canal Company has periodically released water down the canal for cattle owners so they could fill their ponds and basins for watering. However, the practice is often difficult as well as wasteful and the joint project to bring water to animal troughs from the culinary systems is well into its design stages. The canal company has committed a winter water right they control to supply that use, but recently approached the state engineers office about making that right a year round right.
"It is a matter of priorities," said Palmer. "Some water rights take priority over other water rights. In a dry year, water is limited and the right to it is very important."
No matter what happens, PRWID officials indicated that the project to extend lines into areas across Carbon and even into Emery County will proceed.
But board secretary Guido Rachiele was concerned that the project might be a burden rather than a plus for the district.
"I just wonder what advantage this arrangement will provide the district," commented Rachiele.
Palmer said he didn't have a definitive answer because there would be some benefits that will come from it and possibly some negative things.
At the conclusion of the discussion, the board decided to wait for the state engineer to act and readdress the matter at that point.