Water rates for the City of Ketchikan will go up 8 percent across-the-board starting in March. That includes fish processors, which until Thursday were facing a much larger increase.
The ordinance originally called for a 22-percent increase for fish processors, which use significantly more water than any other customer type. A water-rate study commissioned by the city clearly showed that residential customers pay far more for the actual water used than fish processors.
But, the Council chose to amend the ordinance, and raise everyone’s rates equally.
City Mayor Lew Williams III explained that the subsidized rate system probably won’t change until the city moves to metered water.
“Yeah, we’re sort of weird here. Down South, the big users, and they’re all metered and everything, they supply the biggest percentage of cost toward the water,” he said. “Here, we have a set rate and the residentials have always been carrying the load.”
He said switching to metered water is expensive, though, so it will take time to get there. In the meantime, the city likely will raise water rates again by 8 percent each of the next two years.
Ketchikan Public Utilities Water Division has always operated at a deficit. The city has been slowly raising rates over the last few years, with the goal of eventually breaking even.
Also Thursday, the City Council approved the first reading of a half-percent sales-tax increase. The Council had been considering a seasonal sales tax increase, which would have brought in more revenue.
But, in part due to concerns from business owners and the bookkeeping issues that might arise, the majority of the Council decided to move forward with the year-round increase, which would bring the city’s sales tax to 4 percent. If approved in second reading, the new tax will take effect April 1st.
The Council also approved an increase in rates at the Ted Ferry Civic Center, plus a lottery system for groups to book the center during the winter holiday season. Williams said there’s a lot of demand for the space during that limited time frame.
“You have three weekends in December before Christmas, and everybody likes that second Saturday of the month,” he said. “How do we take care of that – some people have been calling in and having that date reserved forever, and we’ve come into some conflict this year.”
Williams says the new system should give everybody an equal shot at the most desirable dates for holiday parties.