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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.