The cost of doing business

By Observer editorial July 24, 2013 10:27 am
La Grande City Councilman Gary Lillard and Mayor Daniel Pokorney made good points during last week’s City Council meeting. At the meeting the council boosted sewer and water fees.

“But I’ll tell you at some point this is going to have to stop,” Lillard said before the vote.

In a unanimous vote, councilors OK’d a 5-percent increase in sewer rates. The basic residential rate will increase by $1.69 a month to $35.56, and, in a separate vote, opposed only by Pokorney, the council increased water rates by about 10 percent. The new basic residential water rate will be $16.04 a month.

“It’s a big increase. I think it’s too much,” the mayor said of the water rate increase during the meeting.

According to a city staff report, expenses for both sewer and water have increased without a corresponding increase in annual revenue. 

Both the mayor and Lillard’s points, of course, are good ones. While no one likes to face service fee hikes, Lillard and Pokorney’s assertion that incremental boosts are easier to swallow than one big hike ring true.

However, their quotes should resonate as well. Where is the ceiling for fee hikes? In short, after fee boosts during eight of the last 10 years, two good questions would be: When do we get off this merry-go-round? Or do we?

It seems to us that the answer, in a word, is no. Or at the very least, probably not any time soon.

We realize that municipal budgets are tight. Every town faces its own unique budget challenges and there certainly is not money available to do everything local leaders would like to do, so as costs continue to go up, cities, whether it’s La Grande, Island City or Union, must keep pace in order to cover the ever-increasing costs of doing business. Cities, much like businesses, can only cut corners for so long before they must pass the cost on to the consumers or risk having services that customers pay for — and expect — start to erode.

While no one likes higher utility bills, people do expect a certain level of service from their local governments, and those services come with a price tag.

A price tag likely to keep rising for the foreseeable future.