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Covering costs

The Libby Budget Committee met to look over their annual budget report, discussing ways to make better use of money and save funds, Tuesday in Libby.

Peggy Williams, committee member and city council member, said on the sewer side of things, regarding the revenue versus expenses, “we are actually going into the hole about $2,000 a month.”

The City of Libby currently uses a three month average taken from October, November and December to set the rates for sewer billing.

Williams said both her and the Libby city administrator, Jim Hammons, tried to figure out what the cities water/sewer rates should be, with help from the Rural Development program. They have a formula “they kind of consider the Gospel of water/sewer rates” for communities to use, she said.

But, after looking at the city’s budget, using a formula to raise water rates and reduce sewer rates “just doesn’t seem to work for us,” she said.

Hammons said a big problem is how or the way the city bills people. Libby is the only town that bills people using a three month average, he said.

If there is an elderly person or a single person who hardly uses any water, they are not going to do anything but pay the base rate for sewer all year long, he said.

The sewer rates ideally should be a usage-based charge, he said. Figuring out a way to change this is the plan.

Council member Kristin Smith touched on Libby’s water/sewer rate situation, adding that “being an anomaly is causing us problems.”

Extra funds

Libby City Council members discussed ways to help secure funds by creating tax incremental financial districts in Libby during a Budget Committee meeting, Tuesday in Libby.

Council member Gary Beach explained that TIFDs essentially designate tax revenue to be used specifically for improvements. If the city wanted to, for example, improve curbs and sidewalks they could use a TIFD special fund to do that, he said.

Council Member Kirstin Smith added that TIFDs are a great tool. They help tax money not “get lost” in the general fund.

If a district needs assistance or special interests, TIFDs are a way to help direct funds, said Beach. The districts could be made basically anywhere in Libby.

Council Member Peggy Williams “we really need to start thinking seriously about” creating these.

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