By Jean Jenks, Sedona Resident
(August 30, 2018)
The SPECIAL MESSAGE on the Wastewater Account Statement for 7/1/2018 to 7/31/2018 received by sewer users early in August speciously states: “The City Council rescinded the increase for FY 18-19 and rates will remain the same as last year. If you have any questions please call the Finance Dept. at 928.204.7185.” This statement is false as there is NO adopted rate increase for FY 18-19 to rescind.
The Notice of Intention to Increase Wastewater Rates or Rate Components, Fees, or Service Charges inclusive of TABLE 28 (“RECOMMENDED MONTHLY SERVICE RATES”) was adopted on May 27, 2014 by the Mayor and City Council at the time. Stated in theNotice of Intention’s first paragraph: “The Wastewater System Rate Study Report by Hoag Consulting, LLC. . . suggested annual rate increases over the next four years.” Information provided per the fifth bullet: The 4% rate increases are effective for the period “indicated inTABLE 28 of the Report (attached hereto).” ….TABLE 28’s “Period of Implemented New Rates, FY 14-15, FY 15-16, FY 16-17, FY 17-18.”
City ORDINANCE NO. 2014-15 dated 27 May 2014 contains an error. It inaccurately states “For the next six years…” instead of For the next four years. However Exhibit A, “WASTEWATER FEE SCHEDULE 2014-2018,” which contains a retroactive 10% Cost of Service Adjustment for FY 2014 that reversed the waiver the Consultant recommended and Council adopted, is correct. Instead of utilizing ORDINANCE’ NO. 2014-15’s “WASTEWATER FEE SCHEDULE 2014-2018 (Exhibit A),” the City achieved six years of 4% rate increases ending with FY 2020 (vice FY 2018) by fiat.
PLEASE NOTE: Embedded in the 518 page PROPOSED ANNUAL BUDGET Fiscal Year 17-18 where few sewer users would see it is an April 20, 2017 City Manager’s Office Memorandum entitled “Wastewater Enterprise Fund Analysis” From: Cherie R. Wright, Director of Financial Services, To: Mayor Sandy Moriarty and City Council. The 2014 Fee Study Recommended Rate Increases chart on Page 4 of 29 of the PROPOSED ANNUAL BUDGET (actually on the 27th page) is inaccurate as rate increases fail to end with FY 2017-18 but continue through FY 2022-2023. No Mayor and Council ever adopted the FY 2018-2020 sewer fee increases of 4% nor the FY 2020-2023 sewer fee increases of 3%. For these to be legal, STATE LAW ARS 9-511.01 requires a Notice of Intention to Increase Wastewater Rates at a regular Council meeting and setting a date for a Public Hearing on the proposed increases at least sixty days after adoption of the Notice of Intention.
2014 Fee Study Recommended Rate Increases
FY 2017-18 4% increase
FY 2018-19 4% increase
FY 2019-20 4% increase
FY 2020-21 3% increase
FY 2023-24 0% increase
FY 2024-25 0% increase
FY 2025-26 0% increase
FY 2026-27 0% increase
Mayor Moriarty and the City Council chose to ignore the STATE LAW ARS 9-511.01 requirements apropos to the unadopted FY 2019-FY 2023 sewer rate increases as well as the emails I’ve sent them.
FY 2018-19 Wastewater Fund expenditures include the Indirect Cost Allocations to the following city departments:
Information Technology – $161,360
Human Resources – $46,410
Financial Services – $196,433
Utility Billing – $381,257
General Services – $68,630
City Manager – $59,650
City Clerk – $3,870
City Attorney – $157,540
Facilities Maintenance – $70,370
Wastewater fees are likewise unfair to residents. In 2016-17 the City’s User Fee Structure analysis found the estimated annualized visitor population of 55.4% paid 24.6% of the operational costs of the wastewater system while the estimated resident population of 44.6% paid 75.2% of the operational costs. The portion paid by the resident population increases every year under the Current User Fee Structure because the WW debt gets paid down annually and the sales tax subsidy is being reduced.
According to Sperling’s BestPlaces (to Live) Official Site: “Compared to the rest of the country, Sedona (zip 86336)’s cost of living is 43.90% higher than the U.S. average.
The City of Sedona plans to increase wastewater rates again now that the primary election is over. This will be the fourth increase since FY 2011 when Sedona’s highest-in-the-area sewer rates–$32.54 for residents–went up by 15% for two years, then 10% for the next three. What are sewer users paying for here?
The PUBLIC NOTICE in the September 12, 2018 SEDONA RED ROCK NEWS (Page 14A), indicates: “The City intends to award a single contract to one of the top three (3) respondents.”
BIDS & RFPS – Wastewater Rate Study