Council considers hikes in city services

Brad Staman/Gering Courier The Gering City Council considered resolutions and ordinances to increase city services. Mayor Tony Kaufman said they were necessary, even when the city is working from a “bare bones” budget.

Some of Gering’s city services will be increasing slightly, but most of them will require action in the future.

Two resolutions, requiring only a majority vote, were considered at the Monday city council meeting.

One of them was a resolution to increase fees at the Monument Shadows Golf Course, which hasn’t been done for more than five years. It received unanimous approval.

Golf course fee hikes included a 3% increase in green fees, a 3% in cart rental fees, a 4% increase in membership fees, a 5% hike in driving range fees and a 10% increase cart storage and trail fees.

A second resolution would have increased fees at the Robidoux RV Park by 33%. Staff had recommended the increase to keep the RV park in line what other cities are charging.

But after further investigation, city staff asked for time to further investigate the increases.

“After further consideration, staff said it wants some extra time to do additional review of market data before making any changes in the RV Park rate,” said Mayor Tony Kaufman. “There were some possible typos in the report, so we want to make sure the numbers are good before we make any increases.”

Council members voted to table the resolution until staff conducts additional research and revises their recommendation.

“Our budget decisions aren’t made lightly,” Mayor Kaufman said. “There’s a lot of research and ‘cuss and discuss’ behind the scenes. We want to be competitive and we’re mindful of the impact on the users of the RV Park. Still, the cost of operation continues to rise, so we need to cut costs whenever we can.”

Three ordinances to increase other services were only approved on first reading. With council members Troy Cowan, Phillip Holliday and Dan Smith absent, the council lacked a supermajority needed to pass ordinances.

Ordinance 2082 would lower the basic rate for water usage from 4,000 to 3,000 gallons. There’s also a slight increase in the per-thousand gallon charge from $1.52 to $1.55 per customer per month.

Ordinance 2083 would amend the fees charged for use of the Gering landfill. Minimum billing was set at $16.60 per month for residential customers. Slight increases for commercial customers were also made based on volume and service. Overall, it’s a 5% increase in sanitation service fees.

Ordinance 2084 increases fees for stormwater surcharge from $1.25 to $1.50 per month for customers. The fee increase would help the city fund mandates under the federal Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System.

“Sometimes it’s necessary to increase our user costs,” Kaufman said. “We have to deal with both rising costs and unfunded mandates from the state and feds. We need to make sure we’re covering our bases. We’ve had to pay some of those mandates out of pocket, but we just don’t have it in our budget anymore to cover those.”

He added that city staff and the council had done an excellent job is submitting a “bare bones” balanced budget for the next fiscal year.

“We have a good base document we can build on going forward,” Kaufman said. “There are only so many cuts we can make and not compromise services to the city.”

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Jerry Purvis is a reporter with the Star-Herald. He can be reached at 308-632-9046 or emailed at jpurvis@starherald.com.

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