The Jasper City Council met Thursday night, Nov. 21, and raised water rates and sewer rates $3 each. The decision was made after a public hearing where no one came to comment on the need for a rate increase.
It had been discussed previously that the city's sales tax revenues are being used to subsidize water and sewer costs. Projected deficits in the water and sewer fund for 2020 are $57,000 for water and $15,000 for sewer totaling $72,000. As a rule water and sewer systems should be self supported through the rates charged to customers.
The city has not been selling enough water at current rates to meet its costs. Attempts to equalize the system's income and costs have not been successful since the current rate system was implemented four years ago.
The rates were set with customer's ability to pay in mind. The system has a low volume rate and a high volume rate.
Data presented to the city council shows that there are 262 active meters. Of those meters, 78% or 204 customers pay the low volume rate of $44.13; 14%, 37 customers pay the high volume rate of $64.30 and 8%, 21 customers fluctuate between the two rates. The low and high volume rates are based on the amount of water used over a three month period. If over 5,000 gallons are used three consecutive months the minimum bill goes to the high volume rate.
The ordinance passed in 2015 increases water by 5% per 1,000 gallons every November. Essentially that meets the annual rise the cost of living index. The minimum cost for water in 2019 was $5.42 and the minimum cost for sewer was $1.62. These minimums will automatically go to $5.69 and $1.70 respectively in 2020.
A $3 increase for low volume customers the minimum bill of $44.13 would go to $50.13 in 2020. High volume customers' bills will go from $64.30 to $70.30.
The data presented to the council projects expected income for water and sewer to total $308,843. Expenses are projected to total $365,879. This still leaves a deficit of $57,036 that will have to be made up from the sales tax.
Mayor Jan Larson said the city must do something to correct the deficits The $3 increases will not accomplish that, but they will not overburden the customers. A $5 increase was also considered.
The system needs more customers. The city has 20 unused meters. If they were put into service they would generate approximately $10,000.
Costs are also set in part by the amount of water contracted through the Ozark Mountain Regional Public Water Authority. The city is required to purchase more water than it sells. The average water bill for Ozark Mountain water is $29.
The city is considering selling water for bottling from its own well.
The rate increases were approved and will be included in the 2020 budget which is due in December.
The council will meet in special session at 4 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 4, for the purpose of awarding a contract to the next parks and recreation program director for the city.
It also approved Christmas bonuses, $100 for full time employees, $50 for part time employees and $25 for special programs workers.
A catastrophic leave policy was approved.
The December meeting date will be announced since the regular meeting time conflicts with the city employee Christmas party on Dec. 19.