By DAVID GREEN
Fayette council’s Finance Committee continues discussion on an increase in water and sewer rates, while the village administrator presses for the need to cover costs.
The committee is recommending a 12 percent increase in the sewer fee and a three percent increase in the water fee. Village administrator Amy Metz sees the need for more revenue to cover the costs of providing the services, maintaining and repairing the existing system and equipment, and paying for improvements, including the sewer separation project and treatment system upgrade.
Metz would like to see a 40 percent increase in sewer rates and a six percent increase in water rates, along with a $2.50 increase to the quarterly $25 enhancement fee.
The 2011 budget calls for repair and maintenance expenses of $28,000 coming out of the sewer enhancement fund. Her goal is to move that cost from the enhancement fund to the sewer fund which would leave $28,000 for capital projects.
Similarly, the six percent increase in the water rate and would allow $10,000 of miscellaneous expenses to be transferred back into the water fund, allowing about $16,000 to remain in the enhancement fund for future development rather than using it for repair and maintenance.
At the March 19 committee meeting, Julia Ruger suggested looking at a 20 percent sewer increase for the third quarter and possibly an addition 20 percent for January 2012.
Metz recommended not making any decision until word is received on funding from the Water Pollution Control Loan Fund.
In 2009, Metz pushed for an increase in rates to cover a growing shortfall in water and sewer service costs, by council members voted 4-3 against increasing rates.
Council later passed a smaller increase than first proposed, one that Metz said would allow the funds to break even, but not contribute to maintenance, replacement and emergencies.
“If a larger increase would have passed in 2009, this rate increase would not be necessary," Metz said later. "Council was aware an additional increase would be needed to cover the cost of the sewer separation project once funding was in place.
“Due to tough economic times, it was Council's decision in 2009 to have a minimal increase to prevent further use of carry-over balances and lessen the financial burden to the residents."
About 12 percent of households are currently using the monthly utility billing option. The committee is hoping to implement a new monthly invoice format in the third quarter of 2011 without any increase in costs.
However, the village is not able to obtain a bulk mailing permit through the Fayette post office and that will increase costs slightly. Discussion about other options will continue.
FINANCES—Village financial officer Lisa Zuver gave an update on state revenue estimates. State sources predict a drop of 25 percent in revenue this year and again next year, but Zuver noted that revenue for this fund is always estimated low. A 26 percent reduction was also projected for the current year.
The additional decreases will be taken into account in the 2012 budget, Metz said.
Additional news from the April 4 council meeting:
HOUSING—Metz learned at a recent regional development meeting that 3.1 percent of Fulton County mortgages are past due by at least 90 days; that one in 467 homes is in foreclosure; and 7.8 percent of student loans are at least 60 days past due, compared to a national average of 10.2 percent.
GRANT—Police Chief Jason Simon was given authorization to apply for a $40,000 communications grant to replace the police department computer and telephone system. If approved, the village would contribute $4,000.