By Jeff Gallatin
City Council has a proposed cable franchise fee increase in the initial version of the 2014 Bay Village municipal budget and will probably conduct a public meeting in upcoming weeks on a probable sewer fee rate hike.
In the proposed budget, which was scheduled for first reading at the council meeting postponed Monday because of the frigid weather, the cable franchise fee charged to consumers would go from 3 to 5 percent, which is the maximum allowed. Administration officials estimate that it would raise an estimated additional $100,000 annually.
Rates per household would vary, depending on whether consumers have basic cable services or one or more premium services, such as movie channels like HBO or Showtime.
Mayor Debbie Sutherland said she thought utilizing an increase in the cable franchise fee would be a fair way to raise additional revenues as the city continues to look for ways to find funds in other areas while the state cuts funding to municipal and other local governments.
“How much the increase costs depends on each household and what they use in terms of cable services,” she said. “If it’s just basic cable in the house, it will be really small, and while it will be more than that if they have one or more premium services, it still will only be pennies on the dollar for most people. And if you don’t have cable, you won’t be paying anything.”
Dwight Clark, chairman of council’s Finance Committee, noted the budget is not final, but said the cable franchise fee hike would be one good way of dealing with the ongoing issue of finding sufficient revenue to maintain city services.
“We really haven’t had much of anything in increases with the exception of the rental fees in the last few years,” he said.
Clark said any sewer rate increase will depend upon the results of the upcoming meeting sometime this month between Bay city officials and the management board of the Rocky River Wastewater Treatment Plant about the financial data from flow studies that plant officials provided to Bay Village on that city’s use of the plant’s facilities.
The studies are used to help devise rates based on usage for each of the cities (Bay Village, Fairview Park, Rocky River and Westlake) that use the plant. The initial figures had Bay possibly looking at at least $300,000 in additional costs annually. Currently, Bay homeowners pay $65 per quarter, while businesses pay $24.o2 per mcf (1,000 cubic feet) with a minimum charge of $171 annually per business. Sutherland and her Rocky River counterpart, Mayor Pam Bobst, set up the meeting after Bay council members asked for additional data when the city’s consulting engineers questioned some of the flow study figures and whether equipment used to help obtain the data was properly calibrated.
“That meeting will give our engineers the opportunity to be able to ask some questions,” Clark said. “We’ll be able to tell more after that.”
Clark said he does plan to set up a public meeting with residents to discuss Bay’s sewer rates.
“We want to make sure the public has the opportunity to discuss the rates, ask questions and get information about it,” he said.
Sutherland reiterated that a sewer fee hike is likely, given the better facilities and increased flow because of the better equipment. She also noted that the city, like many others, had to respond to federal EPA mandates.
“Any increase will depend on the final data,” she said.