City Council discusses utility rate hike
The City Council on Monday voted to draft an ordinance adopting a new utility rate hike for water, wastewater and sewer services.
An outside consultant presented a detailed analysis of the water, sewer, and sanitation systems financial forecast. Each year the city reviews revenues as part of its budget process, but with major capital projects looming on the horizon for wastewater, the Assistant Public Works director Chris Cotta said a more detailed analysis was necessary for a number of reasons.
“One is that operating costs are expected to rise over time and there are no rate adjustments scheduled for the current year or future years at this time,” Cotta said.
The recommended rate hike would increase customers' bills over time. Karyn Johnson for FCS Group presented the council two scenarios. The preferred rate scenario assumes the City obtains 70 percent grant funding for all major wastewater capital projects such as the $2 million project to rehab pump stations 1 and 2 and relocate the associated force main.
Under the preferred rate scenario, the increase of an average household utility bill, which includes 4,200 gallons of water and sewer service, plus one 32-gallon garbage pickup per week, would equate to about $3 more per month, with roughly an additional $3 per month each year after that.
A customer, whose utility bill is currently $98.54 per month, would see a monthly utility bill increase to $101.33 after the first rate adjustment takes effect. The following year it would go to $104.22, and so on until the final adjustment in 2019, at which time the bill would be $120.16 monthly.
After 7 years, the average monthly utility bill would have increased a total of $21.62 from the current amount.
If grant funding is not available, the annual rate increases will add between $2.79 and $5.30 per month depending on the year.
The average utility bill of $98.54 per month in 2012 would increase to $101.33 in 2013, then to $105.93 in 2014. At the end of the study period in 2019, it would be $123.28 per month – a difference of $24.74 from the current amount.
“This is a bit more than the preferred rate scenario, which reflects the fact that the City would be carrying more debt for wastewater system improvements,” Cotta said.
Water rates last went up by 40 percent in 2008. Wastewater ended a series of 1 to 2 percent increases in 2011 that began in 2007. Sanitation collections had 5 percent increases beginning in 2007 and ending in 2010.
In other news, the council passed the FY13 school budget. Superintendent of Schools Rob Thomason said to the council, “It’s a balanced budget, it’s conservative, and it’s fiscally responsible.”
The school district will receive $1.8 from the city, which is the same as last year and previous years.
The council also awarded a $20,700 contract to Reid Brothers for 1,500 tons of crushed rock. Bids were open May 8, and Reid Brothers was the low bidder.