Mason County News
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Wednesday, August 20, 2008 • Posted August 20, 2008

It seems sometimes that only a few things are changing and getting done around the City of Mason, but behind the scenes there is often a number of things happening. Just recently we have hired a couple of new employees to fill some vacancies, and now we are again working hard to keep up and get things accomplished. A week ago on Monday night, the City Commission met and several more issues are being addressed. As with most regular meetings of the Commission, there were the standard issues to be considered and acted upon, and at that meeting there was a Conditional Use permit that was approved as well as a Variance to the Zoning Ordinance for a particular situation. Consideration was given to a request for a change to the signage regulations, but it was decided that the current ordinances address the issue and no new regulations were needed. The issue at that meeting involved personal and non-profit signage placed in the right of way of city streets to advertise such events as fund-raisers, garage and moving sales, public events and other “median” signs. Since these are already prohibited on the two sides of the square that are state highways, namely the east and north sides, however we have seen many more of them on the other sides of the square that are city streets. Most all of these types of signs are prohibited by the current city ordinances and the Commission recommended that the building official become the person to enforce violations of this nature. If you are considering using the medians for advertising your event, please be aware that you may be violating a city regulation and your signs may be taken down and removed by the city staff. It is up to all of us to try and keep Mason a wonderful hometown, and an abundance of signs cluttering the right of ways and making it difficult to drive around the square is a problem for all of us.

The other issue that was discussed at length was the budget for the coming year. As we have tried to anticipate the increases in the cost of gasoline and diesel fuel, the additional needs for equipment and operating expenses, and the reasonable need to give our employees a small but well deserved raise, it has become clear that we are working harder to stretch the dollars to meet all of the needs. The city staff, working in conjunction with the Commission, has reduced the new and increased expenses to the minimum amount to still provide the services you expect and still meet the needs and regulations of the state. The city budget has risen because of the inflation we all see in our individual lives as well as the additional regulations we must meet, and now we are looking at over $ 4,750,000. in total expenses for the coming year. Although taxes seem to always be going up, the City of Mason only collects about $132,000. in property taxes and just a little less than $200,000. in sales taxes this year. The rest of the income of the City will have to come from the rates and fees we charge for the services you use and expect. The City Commission is considering raising some of the fees that we collect to more reasonably pass the cost on to those who receive the services, and so you as the citizens need to know what is being considered. No basic fees or rates have been increased during the past three years, while the expenses have been climbing all the time; therefore now is the time we will have to pay for the improvements that benefit all of us. It is expected that all solid waste fees will be raised 10% this fall, the water rates will be increased about $2.50 for the minimum base rate for both residential and commercial users, and the water rates for higher consumption will be increased, and the city portion of the electric rate will be increased a portion (although most of the increase in electric costs is a direct result of higher fuel costs, not the city distribution of power which is only a fraction of the total electric bill we all pay). No one likes to pay more for the things we all consider to be essential, but since the last rate increases in 2005, many things have changed and we all pay more for everything we purchase than we did then. If you have concerns about the increases, please talk to your City Commissioner or call me and we will be glad to hear your suggestions. If you would like specifics about the city budget, call or stop by the city office since a proposed budget is on file with the City Secretary and the city staff will be glad to try and answer questions you might have. And if you have concerns that need to be heard in public, the next regular City Commission meeting on Monday, September 8 will have a time for anyone to make any comments they wish during a public hearing on just the up-coming budget and tax rate. Mason is your town, and we are just your elected officials trying our best to balance the needs and goals that will benefit all of us with the costs and concerns that affect each of you, and we need to hear your suggestions and concerns as we make decisions for the coming year. Together we can work to make Mason the hometown we can all enjoy now and leave as a wonderful gift for the future.

Your friend and neighbor, Mayor Brent Hinckley

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