Greene County residents will see a 2 percent increase in their water rates starting in March following a unanimous vote by county commissioners this week.
County officials cited growing debt payments, increasing expenses and the need to increase capital improvement funds as reasons for the utility increase.
The increase is expected to cost an extra 70 cents per month for households who use 6,000 gallons of water monthly, according to the county sanitary engineering department.
“None of the commissioners took this lightly,” said Commissioner Tom Koogler. “We all worked very hard with the water and sewer department and the sanitary engineer to make sure that every nickle is being saved and we are being cost effective with our operation … We just didn’t have any choice. I’ve always believed the easiest thing to do is just raise rates and we were able to keep that from occurring last year, but we have reached a point where we have no choice.”
The rate increase comes about a year after commissioners tabled discussions about a possible utility increase.
The last increase in water and sewer rates occurred two years ago when water rates went up by 2 percent and sewer increased by 3 percent in 2012. On average, the rate changes amounted to a 65 cent increase in water and $1.35 increase for sewer for households using about 6,000 gallons of water per month, according to information published by the county. The increases were imposed to help cover increased operating costs and to help pay for building improvements.
Declining revenues were one of several factors that attributed to the need for the increase, said county officials.
Connection charges and tap-in fee revenues are expected to drop about 50 percent this year compared to 2013, according to the sanitary engineering department’s projections. The department reported $868,938 in tap-in fee revenues for 2012 compared to an estimated $430,000 projected this year. Connection charge revenues totaled $103,861 in 2012 compared to an estimated $50,000 expected this year.
County water and sewer systems are supported using funds from fees and service charges. Neither taxpayer dollars nor money from the general fund are used to finance operations of the systems.
The impending rate increase this year will be used to help cover expenses that include debt payments, personnel costs and capital improvement projects, said Ron Volkerding, the Greene County Sanitary Engineering director.
“There have been some cost increases that we can’t control,” Volkerding said.
In previous interviews, Volkerding has said that he would rather implement small increases instead of larger ones in the future.
The sanitary engineering department is facing loan payments that are expected to total $17 million this year. Loan payments related to the water fund account for about $4 million.
In 2009, the county expanded its wastewater treatment facility in Sugarcreek Twp.. The county borrowed $35.5 million to cover the expansion, which doubled the facility’s maximum capacity from 4.9 to 9.9 million of gallons per day.
About 44 percent of water and 65 percent of sewer expenses are attributed to loan repayment.
“The refinancing that we did last year really helped,” said county Commissioner Bob Glaser. “What we need to do now is increase the rates on water so we can build a capital improvement program so that when water requirements come up and we have to either repair or create new water lines, we have the funds to pay for them instead of bonding them because our bonding debt is already so heavy in that area.”
More online: To estimate how much water your household uses daily, go to MyDaytonDailyNews.com.