By REID TUCKER
Paxton’s sewer and water customers are in for a mild bump in their monthly bills, but it was necessary to keep the city’s utilities services budgets from being in the red for Fiscal Year 2014.
The Town Council agreed to implement the increase at its Aug. 27 budget workshop, the last before voting to approve the finalized budget at the end of September. The change to the sewer system rate scheme raised projected sewer sales from $105,000 to $118,400 – putting total projected revenues at $137,627 – but it took four different steps and a careful balancing act to make it happen.
First, sewer service rates were raised by an inflation-adjusted 3 percent, catch-up for several years without a sewer rate increase, taking sales from $105,000 to $111,000, then the $35 cap on bills currently in place was lifted, tacking on another $2,000 to sales. Third, the $17.85 base sewer rate was raised to an even $20 across the board to get sales to $118,400. However, even those measures weren’t enough to get sewer revenues and expenditures to match up on their own, and that’s where a creative transfer from the general fund budget came in.
Working from a suggestion made by the Council at the previous workshop, staff used $20,000 of the $85,000 raised by the city’s 1-cent surtax for garbage collection as a transfer out to the sewer fund. With the other three changes in place, only $17,927 of that $20k was needed to bring sewer revenues and expenditures in line, and the leftover money was folded back into the general fund budget.
No changes to sewer expenditures were recommended by staff or the Council at the workshop, though the proposed budget does now include $22,000 for the engineering services grant to renovate the sewer system. Similarly, the only change to the water fund budget reflected the sewer fund’s alterations, with water rates being raised by the same, now annually recurring, 3 percent.
After all the deliberation involved with the sewer and water, the general fund budget needed no further modifications other than as previously mentioned in regard to the 1-cent garbage collection surtax, which raised $15,000 more than last year. Overall, the FY14 budget projects more revenues than did FY13’s , rising from $391,654 to $412,654. Payroll expenditures are down from $104,700 to $98,000, which more or less covers the new line item of $6,000 for rental on a modular building to be used in Paxton by the Walton County Health Department’s mobile unit.