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The Carthage Press
  • Water, wastewater rates may rise in Carthage

  • In the last of a series of three meetings to prepare the city's fiscal year 2015 budget, the Carthage City Council's Budget Ways and Means Committee heard a proposed Carthage Water & Electric Plant budget that calls for a 10 percent rate hike for water and wastewater services.
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  • In the last of a series of three meetings to prepare the city's fiscal year 2015 budget, the Carthage City Council's Budget Ways and Means Committee heard a proposed Carthage Water & Electric Plant budget that calls for a 10 percent rate hike for water and wastewater services.
    CW&EP officials met with the budget committee for more than an hour on Thursday to lay out their budget and plans for the upcoming year.
    General Manager Bob Williams said the rate hikes are needed to make sure the water and wastewater systems do not start losing money in the face of rising costs.
    Williams said the water rate hike will have a smaller affect on residential customers than it will on industrial customers because of the way the utility bills residential and commercial customers.
    The rate hike will be about 5.5 percent for residential customers as opposed to 10 percent for medium sized industrial users and 16 percent for large industrial users.
    He said the average residential customer, who uses 1,100 kilowatt hours of electricity, 700 cubic feet of water and 700 cubic feet of wastewater will see a total increase of $3.35 per month in the bill from $148.97 to $152.32. This includes a $1.27 increase in water costs for that person and a $2.07 increase in wastewater costs.
    Williams said the water and wastewater budgets are breaking even now, but will start losing money next budget year or year after next without the rate increase.
    He said the increase is not connected to the proposed $7 million in improvements to the waste water treatment plant.
    "This is an operations and maintenance increase," Williams said. "The operations and maintenance on the new plant won't begin coming on line for two or three years at the earliest. We would be asking for this increase whether we were working on improving the plant or not."
    City and utility officials avoided talking about the big issue that was lurking under the surface in this meeting — a proposal from the city to increase the amount of money transferred from CW&EP to the city's general fund in the coming years.
    In Council budget committee meetings and meetings of the CW&EP Board of Directors, the two sides have talked separately about a city proposal increasing the amount of money CW&EP transfers by putting in the city code a percentage of the utility's revenues and removing a cap that has kept the utility's transfer amount at the same amount as CW&EP's revenues have risen.
    Currently the city-owned utility transfers nearly $1.4 million of its approximately $30 million in revenues to the city's general fund in PILOT, or Payment in Lieu of Taxes, and transfer payments.
    Carthage City Administrator Tom Short said at Wednesday's meeting that the proposed city budget includes more than $120,000 in additional revenue from CW&EP, but the utility's proposed budget does not include that increase.
    Page 2 of 2 - According to utility officials, the city's proposed ordinance also does away with the utility's practice of charging the city for electricity and for the services performed by utility workers, including hanging Christmas lights, preparing for events such as Maple Leaf and other services.
    Short said the city has hired an attorney to look over state law and see what the city can and cannot do, with regard to setting transfer amounts and the other issues, under state laws which govern municipal utility systems
    Utility officials have argued in CW&EP board meetings that they can't afford the changes the city wants to impose without large increases in utility rates.
    City officials have said they have final say over whether utility rates are increased, so could control the impact on customers.
    Utility and city officials plan to meet after the city's outside attorney has given his opinion and hammer out their differences.

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