• Last modified 3519 days ago (Oct. 29, 2009)


LETTERS: Enough already with utility bill increases

To the editor:

I’m not sure how the government determines its finding that we seniors have not experienced an increase in our cost of living. The cost of living in my world has certainly gone up and the forecast is more of the same.

For example, my prescription drug coverage is raising its monthly premium by $4, its deductible by $15, and its co-pay by $4. My supplemental insurance already has raised monthly premiums twice this year, each time by almost $12. Gasoline continues to up almost daily, and groceries and clothing prices continue to increase.

On top of that, we pay mill levies to the city to pay off the aquatic center, improvements to the high school, and construction of a new stadium, among other things. Our city has one of the highest sales taxes in the state. The construction of a new jail will involve yet another tax.

Now according to what our City Council decided at their last meeting, beginning in January, our utility bills will arrive with an increase of at least $5 monthly for electricity and water.

I say “at least” because at the next council meeting, they will decide if we also will pay an additional $8.70 monthly for debt reduction on our wastewater treatment plant. Now, we’re already meeting our debt payments but our city manager believes it would be a “good business decision” if the city could pay off the debt in 20 years instead of 40, which was the original plan, citing the savings of more than $2 million in interest.

If we further take that logic, it would be an even better business decision if we could pay off the debt in 10 years instead of 20. The point is, even though it might make business sense, we just don’t have the resources to do that.

In April 2008, a little more than a year ago, on the recommendation of our city manager, the City Council voted to increase our monthly utility bill by $30 to $35 for average households. With the increases recently approved by our City Council members, the average household will see a monthly increase of $6. If the council approves the sewer increase, our monthly utility bills will have increased by $45 within a period of 21 months. To my way of thinking, that’s a pretty hefty monthly increase for residents to be facing. And we have no assurances that in another year or two utility rates won’t be going up yet again.

As we know, retirees make up a significant percentage of Hillsboro residents. Let me assure you that as a retiree, I will not be seeing my income increase enough to cover all of the additional expenses.

There also are a number of struggling families living in Hillsboro who already find it difficult to meet daily living expenses. What will higher utility bills do to their monthly budgets? The truth is the majority of us who live in Hillsboro and Marion County are not rich people. This is evident in the use that is made of Marion County Emergency Food Bank and our own Main Street Ministries. It also is evident in the number of students receiving free or reduced school meals.

If you have concerns about where you’re going to find the money to pay for ever-increasing utility bills, please contact someone on the City Council.

Let them know that just as we residents have had to cut back, especially in this economy, they may need to say, “Yes, retiring the sewer debt early would be good, but unfortunately at this time the city just does not have the money to make higher payments.”

At least that would save us from having to pay $8.70 more on our monthly utility bills.

Karen Wiebe

Last modified Oct. 29, 2009