Powder Springs OKs Water, Sewer Increases
Costs will be going up for businesses and some residential customers, while those who use smaller amounts of water will see a decrease.
With the City Council giving their approval Monday night, Powder Springs water and sewer customers will see new rates—mostly increases but some opportunities for decreases—starting April 1.
“It hurts us to pass on a rate increase,” Mayor Pat Vaughn said. “We don’t like to do that, and unfortunately, it has now caught up with us.”
At the end of fiscal 2011, the water-sewer enterprise fund had a deficit of about $295,000. And once March ends, the city will have lost about $90,000 since January following a 12 percent water-sewer increase from the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority.
Changes by Powder Springs include adding a $50 sewer deposit to new customers only, in addition to the existing $50 water deposit. This is to combat those who move with balances on their accounts, and those in good standing will be reimbursed their deposits, interim City Manager Brad Hulsey said.
For renters, who are worse about leaving balances, a new $75 sewer deposit will be started, and the existing $50 water deposit will be raised to $75, Hulsey said.
Also, the deposit for an additional city garbage can is being raised from $35 to $60.
But the biggest change comes to how businesses will be billed for their water usage.
It will incorporate an Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU) system for businesses, schools and other facilities different from houses—similar to the ERU system in the recently adopted stormwater fee.
The difference is the stormwater fee is based on a business's square footage; the methodology behind the water rates varies from business to business (for example, the number of seats in a restaurant or the number of beds in a nursing home).
The number of ERUs would then be multiplied by a base fee that is charged before any water is used (see bottom of article for further explanation).
Officials said the move will prevent residents from having to subsidize water bills for businesses and will actually decrease the rates for those who use little water.
Hulsey said the move will also help bring Powder Springs in compliance with Georgia’s Water Stewardship Act, which encourages water conservation through lower rates for lower usage and higher rates for higher usage. This would allow the city to apply for state grants to improve its water system, he said.
But Councilwoman Nancy Hudson again spoke against the ERU system for businesses, and dissented in the 3-1 vote, with Councilman Al Thurman absent.
Hudson pointed to the stormwater fee. “Now we’re proposing an increase in the water rate, which I know is needed, but not with the ERU system for businesses. This increase will affect some residents but all businesses.”
She said the decision for the new water system was made “where the public could not comment, therefore I will not vote for this rate increase.”
Former Councilman Tom Bevirt also spoke in opposition of the new rate structure during the public comment period (see attached video). He wrote a Local Voices column against the restructuring, while Councilman Chris Wizner wrote one in favor.
Below is what the new structure looks like. It includes the six-tiered rates for water that goes up the more that is used. The city was previously on a three-tiered system.
The base charge, debt service and admin charge are accumulated before any usage.
To figure how much you’d be paying for water or sewer, you’d match the number of gallons you used with the appropriate decimal and multiply that by the number of gallons. An example is given below the rate schedules.
- Base charged: $4.70 (Facilities other than houses would multiply their number of REUs to figure their base charge)
- Debt service: $0.46
- Admin charge: $2
- 1-2,000 gallons: .0045
- 2,001-5,000: .00475
- 5,001-10,000: .005
- 10,001-20,000: .00525
- 20,001-50,000: .0055
- 50,000+: .00575
- Base charge: $6.82
- Debt service: $0.59
- 1-2,000 gallons: .00653
- 2,001-5,000: .00689
- 5,001+: .00725
Examples, based on 4,200 gallons of monthly usage for a house
- Water: $4.70 + $0.46 + $2 + $9 (2,000 gallons x .0045) + $10.45 (remaining 2,200 gallons x .00475) = $26.61
- Sewer: $6.82 + $0.59 + $13.05 (2,000 gallons x .00653) + $15.15 (remaining 2,200 gallons x .00689) = $35.61 (so your total bill for water and sewer would be $62.21)
Here are some estimated numbers of interest that are expected to be the result of the new water and sewer rates:
- Monthly projected revenue from water (if restructuring was approved): $190,252
- Monthly projected revenue from sewer: $242,119
- Annual projected revenue from water: $2,283,019
- Annual projected revenue from sewer: $2,905,428
- Total projected revenue: $5,188,447
- City's annual operating budget for water: $2,248,000
- Annual operating budget for sewer: $2,832,000
- Total operating budget: $5,080,000
- Annual debt service for water: $39,500
- Annual debt service for sewer: $48,000
- Total debt service: $87,500
- Total annual budget for sewer and water: $5,167,500
Also on Monday:
The council approved a $872,000 contract with Hogan Construction Group to renovate the former police station behind the Town Square, which still exists as the Municipal Court building.
Funding for the project is coming from $673,000 from the previous SPLOST and the $300,000 remaining from the same bond behind the new police station renovations, which were also completed by Hogan.
Also, those planning to build a senior living complex, Oasis at Powder Springs, at the corner of Sailors Parkway and Highway 278 had their stipulation for low-income occupancy changed from 20 to 95 percent in hopes to gain tax credits from the government to get the construction’s financing started.