05/28/10 — Fremont considers two rate increases

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Fremont considers two rate increases

By Laura Collins
Published in News on May 28, 2010 1:46 PM

For the past two weeks, the Fremont Board of Aldermen has been at a standstill concerning the town's budget, which goes into effect in July once it's approved.

Board members are hesitant to impose the recommended sewer and water rate increases on the residents.

"You can't blame them," board member Leon Mooring said. "They don't like to see the citizens paying any more money than they're paying now."

But Mooring and Town Administrator Kerry McDuffie agree the increases are necessary for the town, adding that they are not likely to have a huge impact on local families.

The proposed budget calls for a 17 percent increase in the water rate and an 11 percent increase in sewer fees.

The 17 percent increase raises the rate per 1,000 gallons of water from $2.99 for in-town residents to $4. The base rate will remain the same for in-town residents at $14.25. The average residence in Fremont uses about 4,000 gallons of water each month, which means the increase in the water rate for the average residence would be $4.04 per month.

The proposed budget drops the sewer base rate from $17.50 to $15, but increases the cost per 1,000 gallons used from $8 to $10. A residence using 4,000 gallons of water each month would pay $5.50 more per month. The water and sewer increases combined would raise the average residence's bill about $9.54 per month.

"There will be a few of them that it is a burden for," Mooring said. "For the basic majority, it would not be. If it did pass it would cause us to break even and not go further in debt."

According to the town's April financial summary, the utility fund is more than $400,000 in debt. The suggested water and sewer increases would not get the town out of debt, but would keep it from going deeper into debt, McDuffie said.

"There's no increase that's ever good. There's not been a rate increase on water in seven years, and there's not been a rate increase in sewer in six years. If we did a cost of living increase each year, it'd be higher than that," McDuffie said.

A cost of living increase is typically about 2 to 3 percent. If the town had done small, cost of living increases each year since the water rate was last raised in 2003, it would be about 14-21 percent higher in July than it was in 2003. The sewer rate would be 12-18 percent higher in July than it was in 2004.

The 11 percent increase in sewer is to account for the 5 percent increase the city of Goldsboro placed on the town in 2009 and the additional 5 percent increase the city is proposing for July.

The 17 percent increase in water rates comes from a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Division of Government. The decision to have the university take a closer look at the rate structure stemmed from a letter the town received in January from the Local Government Commis-sion. In the letter, several concerns about the town's budget were cited.

Board members have another budget workshop scheduled for Tuesday.