By Jean Jenks, Sedona Resident
(March 26, 2018)
Sedona’s wastewater rates have been among the highest in Arizona. Still, the last four years saw annual rate increases of 4% that are legally due to end on June 30, 2018. But there’s a problem. The City is intending to raise WW rates illegally beginning July 1, 2018.
Here’s some history of their process. The January 15, 2014 ACTION MINUTES state: “Council agreed by majority consensus to approve the financial plan recommendations for a 4% per year increase in rate-based revenues for FY 2014-15 through FY 2017-18.” The March 17, 2014, NOTICE OF INTENTION TO INCREASE WASTEWATER RATES OR RATE COMPONENTS, FEES OR SERVICE CHARGES states regarding the rate increases: “These rates and fees will be increased by 4% per year at the beginning of each year on July 1. These annual increases will continue for the next three years through FY 2017-18.” Page 1-10 of the Assistant City Manager’s PROPOSED BUDGET FISCAL YEAR 2015-2016 states: “On May 27, 2014, the City Council adopted a new wastewater rate structure which tied the rates to the cost of providing service and included a four percent (4%) increase each July 1st from 2014-2018.”
Although the annual percentage rate increases adopted end on June 30, 2018, the City Council plans to violate current law, ORDINANCE NO. 2014-15, EXHIBIT A: WASTEWATER FEE SCHEDULE 2014-18. Page 82 of the latest version of the FY 2017-18 ANNUAL BUDGET falsely states 4% increases were “Adopted by Council- 5/20/2014” for “FY 2018-19 and FY 2019-20,” and adds that 3% increases were “Scheduled In the Rate Study Approved by Council” for “FY 2020-2021, FY 2021-22, and FY 2022-23.” The Council did not adopt these increases for FY 2019-2023 in 2014, nor was there a Council meeting on 5/20/2014, the date of a P & Z meeting. They were sneaked into City budgets without a Notice of Intention and a Public Hearing.
This is the link to the State law that requires the Notice of Intention and Public Hearing. Arizona Revised Statute 9-511.01 Water and wastewater business; rates; procedures; responsibility for payments –
“A.2.: Adopt a notice of intention by motion at a regular council meeting to increase water or wastewater rates or rate components, fees or service charges and set a date for a public hearing on the proposed increase that shall be held at least sixty days after adoption of the notice of intention.” The required NOTICE OF INTENTION and subsequent PUBLIC HEARING regarding the five specious annual rate increases for FY 2018-19 through FY 2022-23 have yet to take place.
At this point, the City Council cannot legally increase annual rates after June 30, 2018. How many times have I written the City Council concerning their planned percentage rate increases beyond 2017-18 and been ignored? Probably four. The Council not only seems to be ignoring me, but the state law as well.
By the way, residential wastewater rates are unfair. “While the annualized visitor population represents 55% of the total annualized population, the visitors contribute less than 25% of the funding for the operations of the wastewater system…..As the debt service is paid off and the sales tax subsidies are reduced, the portion of funding attributed to the annualized visitor population will decrease under the current fee structure.” Source: 2017-18 Proposed Budget.
Wasn’t it the Consultant who got the Council to waive the 10% WW rate increase for FY 2014? Then in January, thanks to the City Manager at the time, the Council agreed to approve a one-time 10% Cost of Service Adjustment, with Restaurants benefiting from the 10% increase previously waived? During the January 15, 2014 City Council meeting, Council agreed to one-time adjustments as follows:
Single family residential: 10% increase
Single family Low Flow: 5.4% decrease
Multi-family customers: 17% decrease
Restaurants: 27% decrease
Hotels & Resorts: 6.4% increase
Other Commercial accounts: 23% increase
Thank you Jean for your figures on the sewer rates. It seems single family residentials are carrying the biggest burden. Tim Ernster said just before he left the position as City Manager a couple of years ago that rates for us would be $100 per month. I have brought up this matter with the City and get nowhere. We never get a Council candidate who talks about the high rates and the City Council does not seem to care. In fact, I will go so far as to say I do not think our Council or City Staff cares about the residents even though they are themselves residents. Now they are forging ahead with an extension of Forest Rd from Uptown over unforgiving terrain to 89a obliterating the beauty of the open space which is desperately needed along West 89a. Assuming that those of us who live in my part of Uptown will use that road and therefore “reduce the traffic through the roundabouts”. Millions of dollars and an eyesore on that beautiful open space on a “hope”. The City Manager who really pushed the idea has not even been to this neighborhood let alone to the top of Forest Rd. A private, very narrow and steep PRIVATE RD which drops off precipitously on one side. This would have to be purchased and if homeowners do not want to give it up then the City said they will take it and any other private property by Imminent Domain. Many of us who live up here don’t even leave our homes every day let alone “all together like “ready set go” to converge on the roundabouts and contribute to clogging them. This is insulting. Yes Jean, sorry this is off your subject, but I mention it to show how our City wastes money instead of subsidizing sewer costs more and millions would help us residents a lot. We were promised as a reason to incorporate that sewer rates would always remain around $25 per month as it would be subsidized by sales taxes. How many elderly in Sedona can afford to pay $100 per month let alone on a “betrayed broken promise”. I was told by a City Staff member that “Sedona residents should wake up and face the reality that we are not a residential town, we are now a “resort” town. Part if the reason for this is the two million the Council gives to the Chamber to advertise which brings in many day trippers. Sedona is all ready so famous we don’t need to spend that money which could go to the sewer residents are continually carrying too much of the burden to accommodate tourists. Rarely do I hear the welfare of residents discussed at Council meetings. Now the City is making $500K a year from the parking meters with no mention on how that will be spent and certainly no on the sewer. There are four City Council members up for re-election so FOR WHOM DO WE VOTE??? Joan Shannon 315 Smith Rd (publish address please)
The arrogance of the city council members is beyond belief. We, the residents, vote them in and then they turn their backs on us and cater to the real estate and Chamber wishes. We need to ask the hard questions to all candidates this year: What is your position on continued raising of the sewer fee? Do you believe there is an upper limit to the number of tourist cars the Sedona infrastructure can handle? How much money should the Chamber get each year for marketing Sedona to tourists? This should be the litmus test for all candidates. Something has to change. This is not sustainable for the quality of life we all moved here for.
To Tyler Barrett:
City Hall and Council do not consider there is a limit on how many more cars can we sustain as I was told by our City Manager they are planning for ‘FUTURE GROWTH” not by residents, but growth of tourists so there is no desire by anyone at City Hall to stop advertising for more. They have voted to give the Chamber of Commerce two million dollars a year in perpetuity. The Chamber seems to have all of City Hall wrapped around their little finger as they believe anything the Chamber tells them.
I recall the time Carmel, Ca had enough of tourists causing massive traffic and parking jams. Residents were having trouble doing their regular shopping as parking lots were taken up by tourists. They got so mad they begged Clint Eastwood their star resident to run for Mayor and he won by a massive landslide to do something about the problem.
City Hall works for the tourists not the residents and the more tourists the more the merrier. It seems that all decisions made are “what is best for the tourists”, but when election time comes around there is a pretense by some that they listen to the residents.
They did not listen when they wanted one trash collection company and with held information from us what their demands would be on that one company which were nothing short of “tyranny”. Hundreds of residents sent emails and made phone calls objecting to the least of the plan we were advised of so it would have been many more if we had been told the truth. Regardless of the outpouring of resistance they forged ahead and voted to spend $70K on a consulting company and lied to us by omission. Patriot Waste Company backed out and would not bid due to the ridiculous demands by the City if they wanted to win the bid.
Could anyone advise me of decisions made and by whom in favor of us residents?
Sewer rates are a prime example. Mike Ward wanting to fill a vacancy on the Council and run for election once said when questioned about high sewer rates:
“Sedonans don’t know how lucky they are”. So to all of you out there complaining about the rapid rise in sewer rates to what will be $100 per month you are nothing but a bunch of whiners so do you want to vote for Mike Ward?
I have become very disillusioned. Perhaps it is time to vote against Home Rule. As much as I like everything to be as local as possible, even City Halls in towns as small as ours can become too authoritative as we never have enough people to run for office.
315 Smith Rd
Incidentally, “Indirect Cost Allocations” in the current city budget show the Wastewater Fund getting charged the sum of $1,056,950 by the following City departments:
– $180,040 Information Technology
– $ 51,140 Human Resources
– $189,420 Financial Services
– $370,640 Utility Billing
– $ 73,470 General Services
– $ 68,080 City Manager
– $ 5,650 City Clerk
– $ 55,100 City Attorney
– $ 63,410 Facilities Maintenance
Last fiscal year’s indirect cost charge to the WW Fund was $668,566. $1,056,950 is a 58% increase.
I see where the FY 2018-19 PROPOSED BUDGET lists the WW FY18 TARGET and the WW FY19 TARGET rates both as $61.11 with regard to Single Family Residential Monthly Sewer Bills. I am hoping this means the annual 4% increases to our WW rates will indeed end on June 30, 2018. My thanks to all who phoned City Hall.