WEST BOUNTIFUL — Water fees are likely to increase for West Bountiful residents to pay for more than $20 million in water projects needed between now and when the city is built out.

But current residents aren't the only ones who will be hit with higher fees. Impact fees for new construction also are likely to increase.

The problem, says West Bountiful Mayor James Behunin, is that the city hadn't been willing to raise water fees in the past to keep up with the demands of an aging system.

Needs include storage for 400,000 gallons of water to bring the city's total to 2.5 million gallons, a well than can pump 600 gallons a minute — to bring the total to 2,100 gallons a minute — and enough infrastructure to add 74 new connections a year.

Over the next few weeks, the City Council will study various solutions, including a single bump in water rates — from $23 a month to $50 — or an increase staggered over three years.

Impact fees are currently $2,600 and could increase to $4,300.

Jason Burningham, a principal with Lewis, Young, Robertson and Burningham, the city's financial adviser, also recommended that certain water fees increase by an annual inflationary rate because construction costs will continue to increase.

"What we are enjoying right now are the fruits of lack of planning for decades," Behunin said.

Frustrated council members echoed his sentiments, but not only about the water situation.

Four members of the City Council are in their first terms and haven't planned a city budget before.

They're unsatisfied with the lack of detail in the budget and have requested that city staff provide justification for budget line items.

Meanwhile, Behunin has posted a copy of the proposed city budget online at wbbudget.blogspot.com so residents can inspect it and ask questions.

The city also has also been hit by the loss of and subsequent repayment of tax revenue it had been mistakenly collecting from the Holly Oil refinery for the past few years. The accounting stumble forced officials to trim $120,000 from the current budget and means the city won't be able to count on the $16,000 in monthly tax revenue generated by the glitch.

Behunin recommended hiring an assistant city administrator who can be the city's budget officer so issues such as the Holly tax debacle won't happen in the future.

Cities that are not projecting a property-tax increase are supposed to pass a final budget by today and file it with the State Auditor's Office within 30 days.

But because West Bountiful is starting over with its budget now, it will file its budget late.

On July 1, the council will meet for a budget meeting and have a final budget review by July 29. It expects to adopt its budget by August 5.

"I'm a bit wary of not having something passed before June 22," Behunin said.

The state auditor can withhold a city's tax revenue, said Van Christensen of the State Auditor's Office.

But the office won't know which cities are late until July 22. If the state auditor doesn't receive a budget filing, it sends a notice of noncompliance and could begin withholding funds if nothing is received within 30 days.

For the past four years, the city has received a noncompliance letter from the state auditor, he said, mostly because one city fund or another has overspent its budget.

Because West Bountiful won't have a final budget by the start of the fiscal year on July 1, it will likely operate off the tentative budget.

"I'm not happy with this," Behunin said. "I've been trying for years to see some way to improve things."

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