05/12/09 — City might increase utility rates

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City might increase utility rates

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on May 12, 2009 1:46 PM

City residential utility bills might be going up by nearly $10 per month this year, with another increase planned for 2010, and the pay system for city employees will likely change to reflect performance, members of the Goldsboro City Council said Monday.

The proposed budget amendment would institute a 15-percent increase in water usage rates and add a further $3.75 increase to the base rate.

The city currently charges less for water service than it costs to provide it, and the aging water system is in need of improvements it cannot afford, said utilities director Karen Brashear.

"We almost have no choice now but to move toward self-sufficiency," Mayor Al King said.

Goldsboro has one of the lowest water rates of any municipality in the area, he pointed out.

Under the proposed measure, an additional $3.75 would be included in the base rate in the next fiscal year and another 15 percent usage rate increase would be installed.

The city must have a budget for 2009-10 approved by July.

Sewer rates may also increase by 5 percent, and the city may also increase residential refuse charges for garbage pickup from $15.50 to $18.75, about an additional $3.25 per user. Commercial refuse rates would increase from $4.15 to $5 per cubic foot.

The total increase on the average utility bill this year would be about $9.70 a month, said Finance Director Kaye Scott.

Raising the utility rates could mean the council would be able to reduce a proposed 5 cent tax increase.

"We're doing everything we can to keep taxes down," Mayor Pro Tem Chuck Allen said.

City employees may see a change in their pay, if the council approves an amended budget measure to switch from a longevity pay system to one based in performance.

"We need a way to pay our good people the most we can pay them," Allen said. "As a city, we need to be more businesslike."

The measure could potentially save the city more than $500,000, according to officials.

Based on the old longevity pay system, city employees received pay raises based on how long they had worked with the city. The new merit-based pay system would be based on supervisor and administrator's scoring of employees' performance.

The City Manager's office could have oversight of the review process, the council discussed.

"This is not a perfect system. You're not going to find a perfect system," King said.

The council voted 4-2 during the budget work session to include the amendment in the proposed budget.

The council members again expressed concerns that Powell Bill funding may be reduced this year due to the state budget deficit.

Goldsboro receives about $1.27 million in Powell Bill funding every year, Huffman said.

"I hope that money's safe," he said.

But King said he wasn't sure.

"That may not be safe, there's no guarantee. I have a feeling we're not going to get it all. That's what's in the back of my mind," he said.

Powell Bill funds are used for street improvements.

A public hearing on the proposed budget is scheduled for Monday, May 18, and the council is expected to vote on the proposed budget on June 1.