Hurricane City Council hears proposed budget, votes to raise water rates

HURRICANE — For the second consecutive meeting, the Hurricane City Council held a public hearing, but once again, no one from the public showed up to speak.

Under discussion on Thursday was the proposed budget for the 2021-2022 year, which by law has to be presented to the council in a public hearing. But just like last month’s meeting that held a public hearing to discuss approval of a public infrastructure development for Gateway at Sand Hollow, residents of Hurricane were not present to participate in the discussion.

Council member Joseph Prete said he suspected that part of the reason more people didn’t show up was due to some difficulty in understanding their budget.

“If we can figure out a way to simplify it and make it more accessible to the public, they may have some input,” he said. 

City administrator Kaden DeMille agreed with that assessment in his general remarks to council.

“Joseph’s right; it’s a very complicated budget, and it takes a tremendous amount of time,” DeMille said. “Staff has been working on this since January, and it still has a long ways to go.”

Hurricane City staff members at a meeting, Hurricane, Utah, May 6, 2021 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

The first thing DeMille pointed out is that the proposed budget for the general fund has a revenue increase of 20.45% over last year.

In 2021, the city had $11,743,049 in general fund revenues, while its general fund for 2022 is proposed at $14,143,929. 

“That is extremely high. The main reason for this is last year at this time COVID hit,” DeMille said. “With all of the indicators that we had and what the state was telling us, it was to decrease our projections and plan for something terrible. As we all know it’s been anything but that this year; this year has been a tremendous increase.”

There’s another reason for the positive projected general fund balance, Mayor John Bramall said. 

“We’ve also had a lot of growth, and had an increase in income,” he said.

At the same time, operating expenses for the city of Hurricane are projected to be much higher as well.

In 2021, the budgeted operating expenses cost $11,743,050. The proposed operating expenses in the 2022 budget project a price tag of $16,120,054, representing an increase of 37.27%.

The proposed general fund revenues minus the proposed operating budget equals $1,979,125 in the red. DeMille suggested the budget be sent back.

“These are proposals. This needs to go back to council again to decide which direction you would like to go,” DeMille said. “Ultimately, you are going to have to cut almost $2 million out of either the proposed personnel or the proposed capital budget.” 

Staff and the City Council still have another month to work on it before the final budget has to be approved.

Water rates going up

In other business on Thursday, the council unanimously voted to increase water rates in two different ways: residents will pay an additional 10 cents per 1,000 gallons of water used and will also pay a 2% increase for inflation costs. 

Prete spoke about the reasons for the increase.

“As I understand it, the reason for these rate proposals is first, we need additional funds to develop our water,” he said. “And second, we need to keep up with inflation so the water department has funds available to pay for its expenses.”

In the motion proposed by Prete and seconded by council member Nanette Billings, council agreed that the 10 cent increase is subject to review by City Council and the water board no later than five years from now, while the 2% increase for inflation is subject to yearly review.

The approved rate increases will appear on water bills starting in May or June.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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