Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Oconee County Commissioners Asked to Increase Water and Sewer Rates on July 1

Base Rate Hike of 6.1 Percent

Oconee County water and sewer rates will increase on July 1 for the third year in a row if the Board of Commissioners accepts the budget proposal put before it tonight by Oconee County Utility Department Director Chris Thomas.

Thomas presented the Board with a fiscal year 2012 budget request of $7.1 million, up from the current approved budget of $6.4 million.

The budget would be balanced by rate increases for those using even the minimal amount of water and sewage.

That minimum water rate–for use of from 0 to 1,000 gallons of water per month–would go from $16.50 to $17.50, or an increase of 6.1 percent.

A household using 2,000 gallons per month would pay $22 rather than the present $20.75, or an increase of 6.0 percent.

Commercial rates also would increase.

Residential sewage rates would go from $18 for those at the base treatment level of 2,000 gallons per month to $19.50, or an increase of 8.3 percent. Commercial rates at the base level of 2,000 gallons per month would go from $30 to $32.55, or an increase of 8.5 percent.

Thomas also had proposed a rate increase for all water customers a year ago.

In the end, the Board reduced the amount of water covered by the base from 2,000 gallons per month to 1,000, left that rate unchanged, and increased the rate for those using less than 2,000 from $16.50 to $20.75, or by 25.8 percent.

Chuck Horton, 4/13/2011

Again tonight, Commissioner Chuck Horton raised concerns about increasing rates for those who use 1,000 gallons of water a month or less.

“Those folks who do use nominal amounts of water. I’m thinking about the single and elderly. I’m pretty compassionate about them,” he said.

“They had no increase whatsoever last year,” Thomas said.

“They are still single and old,” Horton responded.

Relatively few households in Oconee County are on sewers, so most of the focus was on water rates. Commissioner Jim Luke even said he thought a higher sewage rate increase than was proposed would be appropriate.

The budget Thomas proposed included $2.8 million in debt service, which is down from the $3 million in the current budget.

Tonight was the final night of hearings before the BOC on budget requests from the county’s departments. The Board met Monday evening and all day yesterday. The budget requests have not been released to the public.

On Monday, Finance Department Director Jeff Benko said requests submitted by the departments total just less than $21 million, while budget projections are about $19 million.

The meeting ended tonight with warnings from Benko about the difficult task of reconciling requests with revenue.

The county has balanced the budget both of the last two years by taking money out of the fund balance, that is, unspent monies from previous years.

Benko warned the Board tonight that it needs to be careful to protect that balance, which stands at $8.5 million, as it tries to find ways to balance county needs and resources.

“I thought (fiscal year) 11 was the toughest year,” Benko said. “Twelve will be.”

“I’m not looking forward to the next couple of three weeks,” Commissioner Jim Luke said.

The Board is scheduled to vote on the final budget on June 7.


Xardox said...

Raise those rates and protect that surplus...oops, fund balance!
So what are blue bags going up to?

Anonymous said...

Wish I knew how to give Xardox a "plus" for that comment. And thank you, Mr. Horton, for your concern about old people, of which I am one.

Beanne said...

I agree completely with Mr. Horton. Those that use little water should not be paying hirer fees. Increase the rates on the highest users and sewer users. I also wonder why they protect such a big surplus. Are there guidelines on how much local governments should keep in reserve?

Xardox said...

At a meeting where an auditor spoke, a 15% "fund balance" is considered about proper.
It could be argued that more is better, but probably not by the taxpayers.