Council cuts rate increase

Oak Harbor City Council members did the right thing last week in paring an increase in utility bills from the proposed 14 percent down to 7 percent.

It would have been the second consecutive 14 percent increase, and the mayor and council members recognized it was simply asking too much of ratepayers.

To reduce the rate increase, several necessary projects were put on hold. A water reservoir will have to wait another year as will water line extensions and a stormwater outfall project.

It can be argued that the time to do these projects is now, before construction costs go even higher. But the council rightly showed sympathy for the ratepayer, already hammered by skyrocketing gasoline and food prices. The city does not exist in a price vacuum.

Besides, construction costs don’t always go up. If a recession is heading our way, such costs could at least stabilize. Meanwhile, a suggestion by Councilman Eric Gerber should be studied. He would like to increase development fees, putting more of the burden of infrastructure improvements on developers. There are pros and cons to this idea, but they should be known in detail so the council can make an informed opinion in the future.

Meanwhile, Oak Harbor residents will have to live with a tolerable 7 percent utility rate increase. It could have been much worse if the council had not acted appropriately.

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