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Explore options before raising utility rates

Opportunity awaits you, Boulder City. Are you going to voice your opinion about a utility rate increase, or are you going to let things happen?

In the Boulder City Review’s May 5 issue, Mayor Rod Woodbury wrote that EES Consulting suggested “immediately raising water rates 54 percent, sewer rates by almost 75 percent over a three-year period and electric rates by almost 28 percent over a four-year period.”

Raising rates or fees of any kind is always, it seems, the first choice to pay for services. That’s why people just plain don’t like government. They want government out of their life or at least the part where they have to pay for it. I’m not suggesting government go away. I’m suggesting you become part of a solution.

Over the years, I have suggested cost-saving measures to the former city manager and past and current council members. My first suggestion dealt with initiating a 5 percent reduction in the salaries of city employees earning a six-figure salary. According to the city budget, as of March 1, 2011, there were 15 individuals earning a total of $1,694,395 in salary, which did not include any benefits. A 5 percent reduction in salary alone from this group comes to $84,719.75; a 10 percent reduction is $169,439.50 and a 15 percent reduction is $254,159.25.

I’ve shared the old figures with you because you can no longer see what an individual employee earns.

For example, the salary for the fire chief and 22 employees is listed as $1,847,025 in the 2017 budget, without benefits; the salary for the city manager and executive secretary is $227,032 in 2017, without benefits, and so on for each department.

Because of the current reporting of salaries, I went to the Transparent Nevada website that is provided with individual employee information and found the 2015 figures. There were eight individuals listed with a base pay of $100,000-plus compared to the 15 individuals I found in 2011. The average salary for the 15 individuals in 2011 was $112,959.67; the average salary for eight individuals in 2015 was $119,786.09. When you examine 2015 salaries and benefits from Transparent Nevada, there are 88 employees receiving $100,000 or more.

I have proposed examining the salaries of those making six-figures before, and I’m proposing it again. A reduction in the salary of a few employees was not an option stated in Mayor Woodbury’s suggestions for methods to avoid utility rates increases. Perhaps this should be considered as one way to obtain additional revenue.

Another suggestion I made years ago was examining the contract the city has for eBay/Transportation Security Administration/internet services. This contract gives the city a percentage on TSA items collected at airports and sold on eBay and where surplus city items are also sold with the city receiving a percentage of the sales.

When was the last time this contract was reviewed by the council in a public meeting? Is the contract still valid? How much is it earning for the city? Perhaps this should be considered as another way to gain additional revenue.

Last, but not least, is an examination of all leases the city has entered into. Over the years, I talked to two city clerks, one executive secretary, a volunteer working on identifying leases, who was an attorney, and a number of city employees regarding a complete list of all leasesto show when renewals were due and if payments were received on time.

The fire department has compiled a list of leases for which it is responsible, but my concern is for a master list of all leases where the finance department can determine if all payments are current, if the lease holder has changed and if any increases called for in the original contract have been added to the rent.

Based on years of discussing this issue with city employees involved in some way with leases, I am fairly confident that revenue could be found if all leases are first found and identified, and then properly billed and rent collected in a timely manner.

The mayor proposed some revenue-generating positions. I’ve suggested a few approaches. I’m confident there are many of you who have concrete ideas on solutions to increased utility rates. The time for sharing is now.

Rose Ann Miele is a journalist and was public information officer for Boulder City for nine years. She can be reached at roseannrab@hotmail.com or at 702-339-9082.

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