05/17/07 — Water bills could rise if budget is passed

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Water bills could rise if budget is passed

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on May 17, 2007 1:55 PM

Goldsboro's tax rate will remain the same but residents will be spending more on water next year if the proposed 2007-08 fiscal year budget is approved as-is.

City Manager Joe Huffman recommended a 10 percent increase in water usage charges, a move he said would bring in close to $400,000 in additional revenue to city coffers.

"The increase will help us with current expenditures but also will give us a reliable revenue source in the future," he said.

Additional funds will be needed years from now, he added, when infrastructure improvements become necessary at the city's water plant.

"We anticipate we're going to have some significant needs in the future at the water plant and some other places," Huffman said. "I think that folks understand that you've got to provide safe drinking water and a reliable source."

But that does not mean that an increase of 10 percent on residents' water bills would completely cover the costs that will be incurred when improvements at the plant are needed.

"The major improvements that we're going to have to initiate down the road are significant. We're talking about millions of dollars," Huffman said. "This amount would not cover that cost."

Still, it is important to take steps now to reduce the impact of future improvements, he added.

In the short term, revenue brought in from the water services increase would help offset high operating costs and assist with debt services in the 2007-08 fiscal year.

But in the long term, the money will help provide safe water to residents.

"We haven't had an increase in a while," Huffman said. "But you can't provide substandard water. You just can't do it."

Officials estimate the average household will see an increase of $1.30 a month, or roughly $15 a year, on their water bills.

City Council members are expected to hold work sessions later this month to make adjustments to Huffman's proposed budget where needed.

The city's general fund would total more than $30 million, while the utility fund would bring in more than $15.5 million.

Before the water services increase is set in stone, council members must approve the budget, a move that could occur as early as next month.