“There’s a gap that exists between the revenue and expenses,” city manager Patrick Draper said at Monday’s City Council meeting.
He said the only way to close the gap and help prevent deficit spending in the Utility Department was to increase rates by 10 percent.
“The goal is to balance the utility budget,” Draper said. “This goes toward that goal.”
He said the city will continue to study the utility rates.
Draper said the average water customer will see a $3.30 per month increase in their water bill, while customers with water and sewer will see an overall increase of about $6.60 a month.
“I recommend that we do it across the board, so it is applied fairly,” said city engineer Byron Woods.
The rate increase is for all city utility users, residential, commercial and industrial customers.
Draper said city officials are also looking at refunding some existing debt to help balance the utility budget.
Council President James McGowan and council members Sharon Thomas and Terry Templin voted in favor of the rate increase, while council members Dot Wood and Jay Jenkins voted against it.
Wood said she voted against the rate hike because the 1 cent sales tax increase the council approved in 2010 was supposed to take care of the sewer, water and hospital debts.
“I keep remembering that penny,” she said.
Jenkins said he talked to several residents who opposed the increase. He said an $8 to $9 increase in water and sewer rates is a lot for the elderly and people on fixed income.
He said it is nice for the Utility Department to be self-supported but believes the general fund should help to continue funding the utility budget, like it has in the past.
Jenkins said residents in his district have both water and sewer services.
Draper said water and sewer customers should see an increase in their water and sewer bills in October.
At Monday’s meeting, the council also approved continuing to suspend the city’s capital water recovery fees that are normally charged to developers for new construction. The ordinance waivesthe fees for residential development only.
The city will waive capita lwater recovery until Sept. 30, 2014, for residential development.
City officials said the council passed the ordinance in an effort to encourage residential development in Pell City.
In other matters Monday, the council:
- Accepted the resignation of Jeff Jones for the Commercial Development Board.
- Reappointed Sylvia Martin to the Cropwell Historical Society for a four-year term.
- Reappointed Jack Lincoln to the Library Board.