Senoia weathers economy well budget-wise

Thu, 11/19/2009 - 4:03pm
By: John Munford

But water, sewer shortfall mean rate increases likely

Senoia’s 2010-2011 budget was unveiled at Monday night’s City Council meeting.

At $2.1 million, it’s .85 percent larger than the current year’s budget in which the city rolled back the millage rate to avoid a property tax increase.

That’s a significant achievement given that sales tax collections were 93 percent of projections. Also, fines and forfeitures are off by 65 percent because police officers have had to answer more calls, taking them off patrol and traffic enforcement duties, said City Administrator Richard Ferry.

To help keep costs down the city has instituted a hiring freeze and there were no capital construction projects or major purchases this year, Ferry said.

The city will face some economic challenges in the coming year including increased insurance premiums for medical, workers compensation and liability insurance, Ferry said, as changes for each of those will be considered.

Senoia has been fortunate in the area of new construction. While the economy has had numerous cities see a drastic decline in building, Senoia issued more than 50 construction permits for the first time since 2006, Ferry reported.

While the general fund has done well in Senoia, the city’s water and sewer budgets haven’t been so fortunate, Ferry reported. The city is likely facing a raise in both water and sewer rates due to loan requirements for both which force the city to make those operations self-sustaining with fee revenue.

The water system was hurt by state environmental paperwork and testing that delayed the city putting its new wells online this year. That delay meant the city had to buy more water than planned from Coweta County, Ferry said.

The city also experienced a significant increase on electrical utilities at the water plant and also significant costs in chemicals needed to treat water. Also the water meter reading system will need to be replaced this year because the system will no longer be supported by the company which manufactured it, Ferry said.

The water system also has aging pipes in its system that continually break and require repair, Ferry noted.

“Our costs are increasing but revenues are not meeting costs,” Ferry said.

The city’s water and sewer system currently has an $87,000 deficit.

Both systems are required by the bond ordinance to be completely self-sustaining, Ferry explained. The city has already received notice from the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority and U.S.D.A Rural Development warning about the issue.

The city is contracting with engineering firm Ben Turnipseed to look into possible water and sewer rate increases to come into compliance with the regulations by making both entities self-sustaining.

login to post comments