Water and sewer rates for Smithville customers may increase as of July 1st with passage of the budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year.
The proposed new budget totals $6-million 074 thousand 558 dollars but the Smithville aldermen took no action on it Monday night.
Alderman Tonya Sullivan said she is concerned that the proposed rate hikes are too high and wants more time to study the budget. She recommended that a workshop be held. " As I looked over the water and sewer rates that are in here, they've increased drastically. We were supposed to have a workshop on this budget. We have not had a workshop and I feel that at this time that we need more time to consider this budget. I put that in the form of a motion. There may need to be an increase. I think that's something we need to work out to see where we might can cut our budget. Economic times are tough. I don't know if we can hit the public with a large amount all at one time. It may need to be spread out over a period of time."
Mayor Taft Hendrixson said the water and sewer fund is currently running in the red and if that continues two years in a row, the state will adjust the rates if the city doesn't act. Mayor Hendrixson says the major reason for the higher costs of operation is in electricity and to a lesser extent, chemicals. "We haven't had an increase since 1998. Right now the minimum bill for a thousand gallons of water is $7.47, I believe. With the new rate, it would be $10.00. We're operating the water and sewer department in the red this year to the tune of probably close to $200,000. Now the state department will only let us do that for two years, then they will come in and set our rates. If our rates remain the same, they're (water and sewer fund) is probably going to operate in a deficit again next year. I want to do it (rate increase) as less as I can, but for a minimum usage of two dollars and a half a month (increase), it is not a large amount."
According to page 13 of the proposed 2009-10 budget, the water and sewer fund ended the year on June 30th, 2008 with a net income of $330,384.
When the 2008-09 budget was adopted in June, 2008, the projection was that on June 30th, 2009 the water and sewer fund would be in the red by $149,410 as indicated on page 13 of the (2008-09) budget. The revised budget shows that the water and sewer fund will be in the red by $229,344 as indicated on page 13 of the proposed (2009-2010) budget.
The water and sewer fund is projected to finish the year on June 30th, 2010 in the red by $35,308 as indicated on page 13 of the proposed 2009-2010 budget.
Alderman Cecil Burger agreed with Alderman Sullivan that a workshop should be held before any action is taken on the new budget. " I thought for about three months we were going to set a date to do that and then last week I got this (budget), just figures thrown out with no explanation, where they come from, who put them there, or nothing."
The aldermen voted 5-0 to schedule the workshop for Monday, June 8th at 6:30 p.m. at city hall.
Alderman Sullivan said the firefighters and other department heads could also have input at the workshop. "They (firefighters) have provided a list of equipment they need. We could discuss it at the meeting. Any other department heads can come to that meeting if they are not happy with this budget."
The city's financial consultant, Janice Plemmons will be asked to attend the workshop.
Under the proposed new budget, the rate for city water customers would increase from the current level of $3.50 to $5.00 for the first one thousand gallons of water usage plus a $1.25 increase from the current rate of $3.50 to $4.75 for each additional one thousand gallons of usage. Rates for customers outside the city limits are 50% higher. Outside city rates would increase to $7.50 for the first one thousand gallons of water usage plus $7.25 for each additional one thousand gallons of usage
The rate the city charges the DeKalb Utility District is $1.85 per thousand gallons but will increase to $1.90 for January 1st, 2010 sales.
The rate for city sewer customers, under the new budget, would increase from the current level of $3.62 to $5.00 for the first one thousand gallons of usage plus a one dollar increase from the current rate of $3.25 to $4.25 per thousand gallons thereafter.
Water tap fees for customers inside the city limits would jump from $400 to $1,000 for a three quarter inch water line and the sewer tap fee would go from $400 to $800 for a four inch sewer line. If the lines are larger, the fees are $2,000 for water and $1,200 for sewer..
For customers outside the city limits, water tap fees would increase from $525 to $1,500 for a three quarter inch line. Fees would go from $525 to $1,000 for a four inch sewer line. If the lines are larger, then the fees would be $2,500 for water and $2,000 for sewer.
Mayor Hendrixson says the city has been losing money under the current rate structure for tap fees.
The single largest project in the proposed new budget is the renovation of the water treatment plant which is to be funded from almost $4 million in available water and sewer department reserves..The city is also hoping to receive a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant to help fund the project. The rehab is not the reason for the proposed water and sewer rate increases.
The proposed budget does not include funds for any full time volunteer firefighters. In April, Fire Chief Charlie Parker and other members of the department met with the mayor and aldermen in a workshop to formally make the request. The firefighters want their all volunteer unit to become a combination department with a few full time firefighters as well as volunteers.
In the proposal, the firefighters requested that the city fund two full time firefighter positions per 24 hour shift, for a total of six positions along with an administrative person. They also asked that some extra funds be designated in the budget for training and that the firefighters pay scale be changed. Currently, the firefighters each receive $15 per call.
Under the new spending plan, the property tax rate will remain the same at almost 62 cents ($.6194 cents) per $100 of assessed value.
The proposed budget calls for city employees with up to four years of service to get their automatic step pay increases as defined in the wage scale but there would be no cost of living increase. City employees with more than four years of service, who have topped out on the wage scale would also get no cost of living adjustment.
Proposed capital outlay expenditures in the general fund for the new year come to $860,000. Specific projects are as follows: Financial Administration- $20,000 unspecified; Parks and Recreation- $15,000 unspecified; Public Works/Buildings and Grounds- $20,000 unspecified; City Hall Building Alteration per ADA- $30,000 including $5,000 for handicapped rehabilitation and $25,000 unspecified; Fire Protection- $15,000 unspecified; Street Department- $20,000 including $10,000 for downtown beautification and $10,000 unspecified; Police Department- $15,000 unspecified; Swimming Pool- $10,000 for capital repairs; Airport- $730,000 unspecified (grant funds); Animal Shelter- $5,000 unspecified; Sanitation Fund- $5,000 and Drug Fund- $10,000 unspecified.
Proposed water and sewer fund Fixed Asset Additions: 1 truck- $5,000; an update of the water plant and engineering fees- $1,750,000; a sewer rehabilitation camera-$25,000. Debt repayment-principal: bonds- $220,000.
Although these capital outlay projects are budgeted, they all may not be funded during the year.