GOLD HILL — Water and sewer bills here will rise about $14 this month after City Council voted last week to raise rates, effective July 1.
The recently approved $2.28 million city budget called for a $7.57 increase to water rates, which have not risen since the 1990s, and a $6.34 hike to sewer costs, last increased in 2004.
With family water rates averaging about $60, City Recorder Mary Goddard said the typical residential bill will now be closer to $75.
City Council authorized Goddard to send a letter sent this week to residents stating that water bills, which will be mailed July 31, will reflect the increase, and that the city is "mindful of how the economy has affected everyone."
Councilwoman Margaret Dials said city officials plan to host an open house to explain the increase to citizens, though a date has not been set.
"We've gone a very long time without an increase, and it was very apparent when we were working on the budget that we're not covering our cost, and that just doesn't make good financial sense," Dials said.
Councilwoman Christine Alford said the city was not required to hold public hearings before approving the water and sewer increases, but said the city should give residents some information about why the increase was warranted.
"We aren't required to do any kind of legal notice, but it would have probably been well-advised to have done a public hearing," Alford said.
Alford said she sympathized with residents struggling to make ends meet and pointed out that the council avoided an increase for as long as possible.
"We managed the money quite nicely, but ... we have seen expenses eating into our annual reserve fund. The increase was just to cover the operating budget."
Alford said city officials "hope the citizens realize that the council cannot prevent the need for rate increases. "All we can do is slow down the need and make sure the money is handled judiciously," she said.
"We're probably going to be revisiting this toward the end of the year to see if there are any strategic moves we can make to slow down future increases. I guess, if somebody thinks they can do better, there are three seats opening up in December."
Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.