PTC’s new sewer fees: 63% more than F’ville
REVISED 10-19-10 — WASA members not answerable to council or voters; for PTC residents, sewer now costs more than water
The drastic rate increases in sewer service approved last week by the Peachtree City Water and Sewer Authority have caught the attention of the City Council.
The increases, which council has no control over, will be discussed by council at its regular meeting Thursday. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
WASA voted 4-1 Oct. 11 to enact the new rate increases starting Dec. 1 that will add $20 and upwards per month to the lion’s share of most Peachtree City residents’ sewer bills. For most residents, this factors out to an increase of between 73 and 123 percent depending on how much water is used per month.
The new rate increase includes a minimum $26 “base” bill on top of a $4.65 charge for each 1,000 gallons of water used, down from the $4.83 per 1,000 gallons currently charged.
Non-residential customers will also face a rate increase Dec. 1, paying the new $26 base fee and with a per 1,000 gallons increase from $5.35 to $6.15.
That compares with a minimum water service fee of $18.48 for the first two thousand gallons.
The Fayette County Water System, which supplies Peachtree City customers with water and also bills customers on behalf of WASA, charges $3.23 a thousand gallons after the base water charge.
The bottom line is that Peachtree City customers will be paying more for their sewer service than for their water service.
In comparison, Fayetteville charges a base rate of $15.95 a month for sewer service for the first two thousand gallons and $2.85 per thousand gallons after that for residents.
That’s a 63 percent differential charged to Peachtree City residents versus Fayetteville residents for sewer service.
WASA officials said the move was necessary to be able to pay its annual $3.24 million in debt service, as revenues have fallen dramatically over the past several years thanks to lower water usage and what has been practically a full halt on new development projects in Peachtree City.
Also, WASA had been paying the debt service from its reserve funds over the past several years, but those reserves are down to about $1 million and should not be depleted further, said WASA General Manager Stephen Hogan.
The new $26 base, or minimum, charge will cover the entire debt service payment, which means those funds won’t be tied to the fluctuating water usage figures, Hogan said.
Peachtree City Councilman Eric Imker attended the rate hike meeting and said he was shocked at the amount of increases that were being enacted by the authority.
After the meeting, Imker noted that compared to the city’s recent property tax increase, WASA’s hike was a stunning figure.
Imker also asked the authority to withdraw $71,000 in cost of living and merit raises for WASA’s 26 employees, but several motions to do so failed, and the budget was approved with the increases intact.
Here’s how the rate increase breaks down based on the majority of usage by single-family homes that use:
• 1,000 gallons will pay $10.65 more a month, a 53 percent increase;
• 2,000 gallons will pay $15.30 more a month, a 76 percent increase;
• 3,000 gallons will pay $19.95 more a month, a 100 percent increase;
• 4,000 gallons will pay $24.60 more a month, a 123 percent increase;
• 5,000 gallons will pay $25.10 more a month, a 103 percent increase;
• 6,000 gallons will pay $24.92 more a month, an 86 percent increase ; and
• 7,000 gallons will pay $24.74 more a month, a 73 percent increase.
The increases also take affect on residential customers who use more. The authority serves 9,966 residential customers.
The rate increase was approved on a 4-1 vote with authority member Phil Mahler voting against. Voting in favor were authority members Mike Harman, Jeffrey Prellberg, Tim Meredith and Chairman Wade Williams.
Other than appointing members to the five-person WASA board, the only power council exerts over the authority is when it comes to requests to extend sewer outside of the city limits. Council can veto any such request and most recently did so several years ago when the city of Senoia asked for 500,000 gallons a day of sewer service.
At the time, Senoia was to pay a one-time $3 million fee and an additional $50,000 a month for the service.
The proposal was turned down based on a fear it would “enable” additional growth in Senoia.
When the Peachtree City Council turned it down, Senoia decided to build its own sewer plant and now has four times the capacity it would have had via WASA.
WASA was created via local legislation at the request of the council in the late 1990s with the stated reason of insulating sewer system decisions from local politics.