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Etowah Water and Sewer Authority voted to raise water and sewer rates Monday while at the same time lowering some tap-on fees.
The strategic moves, which officials said are aimed at weathering the economic downturn, go along with the authority’s fiscal year 2010 budget, which the board also approved.
At nearly $3.1 million, the budget is about 4 percent less than the previous year for the authority, which provides water to most of Dawson County.
Under the new rates, which do not take effect until January, most customers will pay about $5 more per month for water and sewer service.
The monthly bill for an average water customer (5,000 gallons) would increase by $2.10, while the average sewer bill will rise by $2.81.
“Things are different today than they were a couple years ago,” said Brooke Anderson, general manager of the authority. “While things are changing, we are making sure to not reduce the level of service to the authority’s customers.
“When growth comes back, and it will, the authority needs to still be in a position to handle that growth, and that is what we intend to accomplish.”
Most of the authority’s expenses remain unchanged or have risen over the last couple years while revenues have fallen. Officials attribute the decline to a slowdown in development and less water use, the result of state-mandated watering restrictions.
Anderson praised the authority’s staff, who he said worked to reduce costs where possible. Still, the cost-saving measures addressed only a portion of the funds needed to operate and maintain the water and sewer system, and fulfill debt obligations.
The authority receives no tax funding, relying solely on user fees and capital recovery, or tap-on, fees. The fees are a one-time charge required to connect to the authority’s sewer system.
The fees allow new customers, primarily development, to pay the costs associated with serving an expanding customer base.
The board voted to lower the capital recovery fees for sewer to $8,000 from $8,800 per equivalent residential unit, effective Aug. 1. The move made possible, in part, by the decision to delay some capital improvement projects.
The water tap-on fees remain unchanged.
The board also decided to change the guidelines used to determine the sewer rate structure, which had historically been based on guidelines from the state Environmental Protection Division.
The change could result in between 27 to 32 percent savings for some commercial customers, Anderson said.
“We believed this approach takes into account the best of interest of our entire community,” he said. “Ensuring we are competitive in the economic marketplace is critical to sustaining jobs and retaining a solid tax base to fund essential community services.”
E-mail Elizabeth Hamilton at email@example.com.