City backs off of water rate hike

After being asked to justify proposed utility rate increases and after additional consideration, Cairo city manager Chris Addleton has backed away from his plan to increase water rates for city rate payers in the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
Addleton had proposed a six to seven percent increase in water rates, but that plan had met opposition from members of the council.
“I felt that when we decided to go up on the gas I could justify the increase in the base rates for water and sewer to cover the debt service for the GEFA (Georgia Environmental Finance Authority) loan, but we were going up on the rates to cover higher operating expenses we anticipate with the new plant and well. We don’t know exactly what those costs will be so I recommended we forgo the rate increase and analyze the history once we have the plant in operation and see what our costs are before we go up on rates to cover operating costs,” Addleton said this week.
The budget still includes the base rate hike of $2 per month for water and $2 for sewer bringing the total base charge to $14 each, up from $12. This is the third straight year the city has increased the base rate for water and sewer.
The three years of rate hikes to the base charge are expected to generate an additional $300,000 in new revenue for the city.
The city manager said that when all is said and done, the city will have invested approximately $6 million in the new airport water plant and financed $3 million of it and that the investment debt must be paid.
Remaining in the budget is a hike in the base rate for gas for residential customers from $6.65 per month to $10 per month and for commercial customers from $6.65 per month to $12.50 per month.
The increased revenue from the base rate hike for gas is projected to be $69,000 annually.
The total adjusted budget without the water rate increase stands at $47,449,048, which is $1,524,742 less than the current fiscal year.
No ad valorem rate hike is proposed and no other increases in rates are being proposed.
City workers are slated to see their paychecks increase by 2.5 percent if the budget is adopted as proposed by the city manager. The cost of the pay raise for all regular city employees is an additional $100,000 annually.
The budget was unanimously approved at the department level Monday night and the budget ordinance was introduced.
Final adoption will take place at a called meeting on Thursday, June 23 at 6 p.m.

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