I watched most of last night’s city council meeting regarding the water rate hike proposal(s) and here are some notes and observations that I took during the meeting:
Councilman Caulkins was concerned that money generated from the water funds are also used for non-water projects. He first proposed cutting those projects (roads, bridges, etc) from the water fund and instead tap into the general fund for those projects. Laegeler brought up the point that the general fund wasn’t budgeted for the $1,000,000 plus extra dollars that was being generated by the water rates; either property taxes or sales taxes would have to be raised to compensate for the lost water revenue or the budget would need some major slashing. That idea didn’t sit well with anyone on the council.
Councilwoman Stockard, who was named Mayor Pro-Tem last night, didn’t want to vote on the issue until talks ADM take place. ADM is Decatur’s largest water user and has pledged to help pay for the proposed new reservoir. However, it wasn’t clear if these talks were about new reservoir funding or the rate hike. The talks are now set for July 17th. It seems like we’ve been hearing about these “talks” for months and months now and they still haven’t taken place – I’m sure some of that is because the city is now without a city manager but still… City management stated that ADM was ok with the rate hike but discussions with other industries hadn’t taken place.
There were four proposals for the water rate hike on the table.
1. 25% + CPI + CPI (Not sure what CPI stands for!)
2. 25% + 15% + 10%
3. 25% + 15% + 15%
4. 25% + 20%
Essentially, the first 25% would take effect immediately in each proposal and the others percentages would be implemented with a 24 month period. The first proposal would implement an immediate 25% rate increase and two 4% increases that would have to approved by the council. However, some on the council didn’t believe this increase would be enough. In the end Councilman Caulkins, with the help of Laegeler, worked on a compromise of 15% + 15% + 15% over the next 24 months and that proposal was eventually approved by a 4 – 2 vote. Stockard and Edwards opposed the proposal.
This all sounds so exciting doesn’t it! The end math has Decatur residents paying a little more than a 50% rate hike over the next two years. What concerns me, besides the 50% hike, is the funding for the reservoir isn’t even included in this hike – if I’ve got it right. Where is this money going to come from? Even if ADM pays half of the 50 some million dollar project, 25 million dollars is a lot of money for Decatur to come up with! Are we going to see another rate hike?
I really think we should be working with the state and/or county to help fund the new lake. I’ve discussed this before but I’m going to keep saying it until someone listens!