HIGH SPRINGS – Residents of the City of High Springs may see a spike in their water and sewer bill in the coming months.
At the April 26 commission meeting, Vice-Mayor Bob Barnas requested that the commission hold a workshop to discuss potential rate changes. That workshop has been scheduled for Thursday, May 3 at 6:30 p.m., City Manager Jeri Langman said.
While the vast majority of the estimated 1,100 sewer customers currently pay $34.41 for the first 5,000 gallons of usage each month, Barnas said the sewer rates would have to increase to $63.86 to pay for the cost of the sewer. This figure would not allow for the city to make a profit, simply cover debt and operating expenses.
Currently, commercial customers pay $46.44 for the first 5,000 gallons. After the first 5,000 gallons, both residential and commercial customers pay $6.87 per 1,000 gallons of usage.
In early March, the commission said the city was $8.5 million in debt because of the sewer, and Barnas pointed out a $40,000 deficit on the 2011-2012 fiscal year in the sewer fund during the April 19 budget workshop. All five of the commissioners listed the sewer as one of their top priorities. In the past, the city has taken money from the water fund to cover the rising sewer debt, Barnas said.
During the April 19 workshop, Commissioner Scott Jamison expressed concern about the fact that some High Springs residents had already paid in money to the sewer when installations were being made. He paid $6,000, but other neighborhoods were covered by grant money and didn’t have to pay anything for the installation.
In December 2011, Mayor Dean Davis, Barnas and Commissioner Linda Gestrin opposed raising water, sewer or solid waste rates, despite the fact that the increase had already been factored into the fiscal year budget. At the time, Finance Services Director Helen McIver warned the commission that not passing the rate increase could create a $70,000 shortfall in the budget.
During the April 26 meeting, the commission also discussed the possibility of refinancing the sewer debt. However, City Manager Jeri Langman said that refinancing through the government program the city had in mind would be impossible because the program was only for transportation debt.
Langman said she could continue to search for options, but felt the city would have trouble showing its ability to repay. Barnas said he would keep searching for options and report back to the commission.
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