Fee hikes may get a vote soon

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Brookhaven aldermen continue to mull proposed water and sewerand solid waste fee increases, and a final decision could be madelater this week.

To be better prepared for a budget work session Thursday,aldermen Tuesday night authorized City Clerk Mike Jinks to developbudgets for the departments based on a 6 percent water and sewerrevenue increase and a $4-per-month solid waste fee hike. Officialssaid the increases are needed to address funding concerns andequipment needs.

“For the last several years, we’ve been using carried-forwardmoney to make the budgets work,” Jinks said.

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The increases, if approved, would go into effect in October. The6 percent water and sewer hike was proposed for the first year of afive-year plan of annual increases.

“Thereafter, our hope it will be no more than 5 percent,” MayorBob Massengill said about increases in subsequent years.

Aldermen did not act on the proposals Tuesday night. Theyinstead recessed their meeting in order to be able to act duringThursday’s work session.

Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell said the board needed more timeto consider the increases.

“It’s a few details we really need to discuss,” Maxwellsaid.

In calculating the increase across the board, Jinks said thewater and sewer hike would amount to less than $1 a month forcustomers who use the minimum amount of water each month. A cityordinance establishing rates based on usage would have to bedeveloped and published as part of the fee-increase plan.

Ward Four Alderwoman Shirley Estes acknowledged the impact a $1increase could have on customers with low or fixed incomes.

Estes added, though, the board had received an excellentpresentation from financial consultant Demery Grubbs last weekregarding the increases. She questioned the benefits of addeddiscussion on the issue.

“I think we’ve got to move forward,” Estes said.

Maxwell said he had no problem with the water and sewer issue,but he called for a more detailed bill that would better show howthe city uses the solid waste fee. Under the proposal, the solidwaste fee would go from $12 a month to $16 a month.

Currently, $9.95 of the $12 goes to Waste Management for itstwice-weekly garbage pickup. The remaining $2.05, along with somerevenue from a property tax levy, funds trash pickup by citycrews.

“It’s a very distinct differences in those two services,”Maxwell said.

Officials said customers are receiving a lot of service for the$2.05. Under the increase plan, the city would also pick up largeritems which currently require customers to pay a separate fee forcollection and disposal.

Officials said they would look into whether the garbage andtrash charges could be separated on customers’ bills. The boardthen moved on to another discussion topic.