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Rate hikes in store for city service users

Brookhaven citizens can expect to pay up to an extra $1.50 permonth for some city services in the coming year after the 2010-11budget is in place, officials said Thursday night.

Aldermen set the cost of sewer and solid waste each 50 cents higherper month after City Clerk Mike Jinks said he’d received noticeFriday that solid waste costs had increased 40 cents per ton.

“We’re better off to do a small adjustment every year instead of abig chunk after a few years,” Jinks said.

The water rate will remain the same for customers who use up to2,000 gallons of water. After that, each level will go up$.50.

Mayor Les Bumgarner said based on his research, Brookhaven’s rateson water and sewer are competitive with other similarly sizedcities.

“Compared to a lot of cities we’re low,” he said. “Most of them arehigher than us.”

The board discussed how to help people on fixed incomes, sinceSocial Security payments are not going up this year. They pointedout that maybe it wouldn’t hurt to keep the lowest level of usageat the same price.

In the end, officials decided to make the lowest rate applicable topeople who use up to 2,000 gallons of water per month, and thatcost will stay the same. The next level is up to 3,000 gallons amonth, and that will go up $.50.

Water will go up from $9.45 a month to $9.95, while sewer billswill increase from $9.40 to $9.90. Solid waste will go up from $19to $19.50.

Water, sewer and solid waste are enterprise funds, and they have tobe self-sustaining. General fund money cannot be used for upkeep ofany of those funds.

Meanwhile, the board also discussed the $500,000 budgeted forpaving funds this year, with Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell sayingthe board should be prudent with those funds.

“We’ll be squeezed for $500,000 unless the sales tax stays good,”he said. “We don’t want to get to the point where we’re like othercities, because we’re probably in the top 10 in the state forfinancial shape, and we don’t want to lose that.”

Ward Four Alderman Shirley Estes agreed with Maxwell, pointing outthat other cities are having to borrow against future tax revenue.Jinks said city officials will have to see what the budget lookslike at the beginning of the year to continue to determine whatneeds to be done about paving.

The general fund budget is expected to be around $10.3 milliondollars, said Jinks, with the water fund around $2.18 million andthe solid waste numbers falling at about $1.36 million.

The board expects to approve the new budget at the Sept. 7 boardmeeting. It has to be set by Sept. 15, and will go into effect Oct.1.