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City mulls widespread fee hikes

Officials are looking at increases to water, sewer and trash rates, among others.

May 27, 2011|By Gretchen Meier,

Burbank is considering raising fees for everything from pet registration to trash and sewer service as officials work to close an $8.7-million budget gap.

The proposed fee hikes, including a 4.9% water rate increase, come in addition to possible cuts to public services, such as fire operations and community programs.

Officials say the proposed increases are due to less revenue coming in at a time when the cost of services has either stayed put or gotten more expensive.


Public Works officials are proposing an 8% increase for trash collection, adding between $1.21 and $3.46 to residential bills, depending on the size of their containers.

“We are trying to eke more efficiencies out of what we do,” said department director Bonnie Teaford. “But no matter what we do, we’re still driving three vehicles down your street once a week.”

She also cited rising fuel and labor costs.

A proposed 4% increase to sewage charges would mean less than $1 for most customers, according to the city.

The Burbank Police Department, which operates the city’s animal shelter, is proposing raising the charges for animal licenses, while instituting mandatory cat registration.

“We’re not trying to make money,” said Interim Police Chief Scott LaChasse. “We’re trying to stimulate people to have the dog fixed and not create more problems for the animal shelter or community.”

Under his plan, the annual license fee for dogs that are not spayed or neutered would double from $50 to $100, and from $15 to $20 for those that already are.

Requiring a $5 registration fee for family cats, instead of simply on a volunteer basis, would reduce staff time spent at the Burbank Animal Shelter to return the animals to their homes, according to Police Administrator Josephine Wilson.

But Steven Ferguson, former chairman of the Burbank Park, Recreation and Community Services Board, spoke out against resting the department’s 5% cuts “on the backs of cats and dogs.”

“Parks, Recreation and Community Services absolutely can be cut more,” Ferguson said.

The proposed 4.9% water rate hike would increase the bill for the average Burbank customer by $2.87 each month, according to the utility.

Electric rates are scheduled to remain unchanged.

Officials attribute the water rate proposal to the rising costs of state and power obligations, as well as the expense of imports from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. Conservation among customers has also led to a decrease in water revenues, officials said.

“We have to pass the costs on to our customers,” said Assistant General Manager for Water Bill Mace. “Because of conservation, people are using less water, and at some point you have a sufficient drop in sales.”

City Council members encouraged Davis to continue to lobby Metropolitan to keep costs in check.

“I think we should be doing everything we can to put pressure on [Metropolitan Water District] for cost containment,” said Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy.

A public hearing on the proposed fee and rate increases and other budget issues is slated for next week at City Hall.


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