Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Oconee County Commissioners Asked During Budget Hearings To Approve Water And Sewer Rate Increases

Actual Decreases For Some

Oconee County Utility Department Director Wayne Haynie is asking for a 1.0 percent increase in the base water rate and a 1.5 percent increase for those who use just slightly more water per month.

Those who are heavier users actually will see a reduction in water rates, if the Board of Commissioners accepts Haynie’s recommendations.

The base sewer rate would drop, under Haynie’s plan, but rates for those producing higher and more usual sewer flow would increase significantly.

The proposed increases for fiscal year 2017-2018 follow 0 percent increases in both water and sewer rates for the current fiscal year compared with a year earlier.

Haynie told the Board of Commissioners in a budget hearing before last (Tuesday) night’s regularly scheduled Commission meeting that he expects to be asking for rate increases in each of the next three years roughly comparable to what he is asking for this year.

Rescheduled Hearings

The Board of Commissioners held budget hearings last night for the Utility Department and for the Parks and Recreation Department.

Both departments had been scheduled to make their budget pitches to the Commission on April 19, but the hearings for these two departments were delayed so they could have more time with the commissioners.

Haynie presented a $9.6 million budget, up from a $9.1 million budget in the current fiscal year, which ends on June 30.

Parks and Recreation Department Head John Gentry presented a $3.4 million budget request, up from $2.7 million in the current fiscal year.

Gentry presented a fee schedule that included a $5 increase in youth sports programs.

Gentry said the Parks and Recreation Department is generating 40.4 percent of its operating budget from fees and other revenue generated by the department. That compares with a national average for parks and recreation departments of 29 percent, he said.

Water Rates

The base monthly charge for residential water customers is $19.79, and that will increase to $19.99 under the rate proposed by Haynie. The rate of increase is 1.0 percent.

For that base amount, a customer gets the first 1,000 gallons per month of water.

If the customer uses 1,000 gallons or less, the rate actually is discounted to $16.70 under the current rate and will be discounted to $16.90 under the proposed rate. The discount is to reward customers on a very limited income who use the minimal amount of water.

A customer who uses 2,000 gallons per month of water will pay $25.17 under the proposed plan, up from 24.79 at present. That’s an increase of 1.5 percent.

That $25.17 fee consists of $19.99 for the first 1,000 gallons and $5.18 for the second 1,000.

A customer who uses 6,000 gallons per month will pay $45.89 under the proposed rate plan, down from $46.79 at present. That’s a drop of 1.9 percent.

Sewer Rates

The base rate for up to 1,000 gallons per month of residential sewage service proposed by Haynie is $18.74, down from $22.62 at present. That’s a drop of 17.2 percent.

A customer who uses 2,000 in residential sewer under Haynie’s proposal will pay $24.04 next year, compared with $22.62 at present. That is a 6.3 percent increase.

Commercial customers have a different rate structure than residential users both for water and sewer services.

The county has roughly 9,400 water customers, Haynie said in a presentation in October of last year, and roughly 2,100 sewer customers.

At the hearing last night, Haynie said water customers are subsidizing sewer customers in the county, though his goal is to try to minimize that subsidy.

BOC Meeting

At the regular meeting of the Board of Commissioners that followed the budget hearings, the Commission agreed to a $820,000 change order for construction of the McNutt Creek sewer line. The change is to accommodate a tunnel under SR Loop 10.

Commissioners also agreed to purchase a used transport van being offered to the county by Lord and Stephens Funeral Home at a cost of $5,000. The van is assessed at $11,000, but the funeral home agreed to make a $6,000 charitable contribution to make up the difference.

Lord and Stephens has told the county it will no longer provide transport services previously used by the Coroner, and the vehicle purchased from Lord and Stephens will be assigned to the Coroner.

The Commissioners also approved a $125,000 expenditure as part of the county’s farmland protection program. The money will go toward purchase of a conservation easement on the farm of B. J. B. Rollins, 2220 Salem Road, in the south of the county.

The county also gave approval to a new Door-to-Door Solicitation Ordinance and a revision of the county’s Alcohol Ordinance lowering the age of license holders and servers. Both items were put on the consent agenda for final action at the meeting on May 2.


The video of the budget hearings is below.

The discussion of the Utility Department budget makes up the first 52 minutes of the video and is followed by discussion of the Parks and Recreation Department Budget.

OCO: BOC Budget 4 25 17 from Lee Becker on Vimeo.

The video from the Board of Commissioners regularly scheduled meeting is below.

Russ Page, a long-time advocate of farmland preservation, spoke during the citizen comment section of the meeting, asking the commissioners to remember that every time land in the county is paved over it removes that land from its potential use for food production.

Page’s comments begin at 1 minute into the video.

OCO: BOC 4 25 2017 from Lee Becker on Vimeo.


Anonymous said...

Russ Page is a treasure; we're blessed to have him here in Oconee

Zippity said...

Long evening of meetings for the commissioners, but they got some important work done. I hope they approve the budgets and allow Parks and Rec to use SPLOST funds as requested for the historic buildings and a restroom facility at Heritage Park. Doesn't make sense for a park that is used by bikers, hikers, horse riders and special events users to have no restroom facility at the parking area.

Xardox said...

Zippity is exactly correct. Parks &Recreation is in the lives of a wide range of Oconee County citizens, and has been operating on an onerously shoe-string budget for a while now. An increase of $700,000 will, of course, create frowning consternation, while the easy passage of a $820,000 for a tunnel under SR10 in the McNutt's Creek sewer project.
The general citizenry of this county deserve a properly funded P&R Dept.

Anonymous said...

Zippity and Xardox are right on.

Wayne Haynie wants a 25 PERCENT INCREASE CHANGE ORDER!!??


Almost a million dollars, and Haynie and the commissioners don't even blink. Talk about a bait & switch. The numbers Haynie and the commissioners spend on sewer projects is staggering. There doesn't seem to be any plan, just a lot of "we have to spend six figures or more to fix this problem of the month right now or else".

Yet Parks & Rec has to beg for small increases to serve their growing number of youngsters participating in their many programs.

The county has a very powerful Industrial Development Authority (that has sat on any industrial park since 2000 with no progress).

Why not a citizens advisory committee for Water & Sewer? Time for a plan instead of panic & spend.

Anonymous said...

Xardox, I agree P&R deserve to be funded at the correct level, as long as they are only serving Oconee County citizens. I have been told from various individuals there are out of county participants, we can't support all of NE GA. Maybe Dr. Becker could submit another open records request. Also, user fees should cover a majority of the costs for the programs, not the upkeep for the facilities etc. but yes the programs.

Anonymous said...

Traveling to Gwinnett for lacrosse this year has really opened my eyes to the lack of facilities that Oconee has. Our parks seem to be really underfunded considering our overall quality of life here.

Anonymous said...

Shoe string budget? The public works budget and p&r budget are within a 100k of each other. You are good with spending more on parks and programs than roads?

Lee Becker said...

The requested Public Works budget for the upcoming fiscal year is $2.95 million. The requested Parks and Recreation budget is $3.41.

Lee Becker said...

The $820,000 for the change order is to cover tunneling under SR Loop 10. The option was part of the original contract. The hope had been that it would be possible to bore under the roadway. That does not appear to be possible.

Anonymous said...

2.95 for roads and 3.41 for parks and programs. Under funded. Shoe string budget. Looks like the begging is rewarded while our roads crumble. And is someone suggesting we be like Gwinnet! Come on people. Wake up. You have to be smarter than this.

Anonymous said...

Misleading post by Anon 9:22.

That $2.95 for roads is not the project budget (i.e. $4 mil for a road for out of county, Friend of Melvin developer Frank Bishop, etc.). That $2.95m is for staff salaries and basic operating expenses. The county spends much more on road projects than that $2.95 million. No one discounts the need for well maintained county roadways.

The $3.41m for parks and rec is for staff salaries, rec center operating costs, utilities, equipment, referees, etc., etc. Oconee Parks & Rec. brings back approx. 40 percent of its operating budget, one of the highest in the State or Georgia. Compare that to other departments in the region.

And this silliness about parks & rec. serving non-county residents is ridiculous. Yep, grandparents and others from out of county come to watch soccer, lacrosse, softball, etc. Take a look at the actual program registrations, and they are almost all Oconee; very few out of county kids participating in any youth programs.

Drive around Epps Bridge and tell me Oconee hasn't turned into Gwinnett East. I'll take a strong, well funded parks & rec. department instead of countless fast food & chain restaurants, storage places, electronic billboards, etc.

Anonymous said...

Everyone keeps saying a few out of county participants. There should be no out of county participants as Oconee County residents are paying the taxes for these programs. All programs should be paid for by participants. That's the way it operated a generation ago or the parents had fundraisers to cover the costs. County taxes then we're used for what they should be. All of you guys moved here and then want to change everything, you want your kids to participant but you don't want to pay for it.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:56, the newcomers sure dont want to hear that but you are 100% right.