Sewer rate hike in PTC future?

Fri, 09/12/2008 - 3:30pm
By: John Munford

Water conservation=less revenue for sewer system

Peachtree City residents may face higher sewer bills in the near future as the Water and Sewer Authority prepares to begin its third consecutive budget year with a projected shortfall.

WASA General Manager Larry Turner said Wednesday that he’s not sure how much of a rate increase he will recommend to the authority, but he plans to have it ready for consideration at the next WASA meeting.

Turner said last year the authority ended with a $210,000 loss and this year will likely end with a similar figure. In both cases the monies have been covered with cash from WASA’s reserve fund, Turner explained.

But for the coming budget year, WASA is projecting to have a $549,000 loss.

WASA’s revenues from monthly bills have declined in recent months as overall water usage in Peachtree City has decreased from the same time last year for both residential and commercial customers. Because the water usage is used to calculate sewer bills, WASA’s revenues have been falling also.

With two months left in WASA’s fiscal year, the authority is about $150,000 behind its projected pace for rate collections, according to figures provided by WASA.

Turner said its possible that he could propose a two phase rate increase, with one taking place this year and the second postponed to the following year. If the revenues bounce back the authority could put off the second increase, Turner said, noting that he hasn’t made any final decision yet.

Though Turner hasn’t made a decision on the rate increase, he noted that the anticipated shortfall is 9.7 percent of the authority’s budget. This year’s $6.45 million budget, adopted Monday by WASA, is 2.68 percent larger than the current year’s budget.

In June, Peachtree City residents at single family homes used a total of 58.1 million gallons compared with a year prior when 102.5 million gallons of water was used, according to WASA’s data. Commercial water use is down too, from an average of between 17 and 18 million gallons to just under 14 million gallons, the data indicates.

Turner noted that the flow of water being treated by the city’s two sewage plants has dropped along with the flow of raw water recorded by Fayette County water officials, so he’s sure the water use reduction isn’t just related to the outdoor watering restrictions.

Turner also said that the city never has replaced the sewage capacity (and revenue) from the Photocircuits manufacturing plant which closed in the summer of 2005.

Meanwhile, WASA’s costs remain fixed largely despite the amount of sewage that’s treated, and the annual utility bill of around $300,000 is expected to increase next year. WASA has also been hit by the price of diesel fuel as well, Turner noted.

Currently WASA residential customers using the average of 7,000 gallons a month pay $30.66, which is among the cheapest sewer bills in the metro Atlanta area. In Rockdale County the same usage results in a $34.55 bill and in Cherokee County the fee is $44.60 at the higher end of the spectrum.

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