City examines fee-based routes to fund projects

Published 7:42 pm Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Property taxes are going down in the City of Bainbridge for 2017, but water and sewer bills will likely be going up. The City is working on a change to the revenue systems that will focus more on consumption-based fees as opposed to property and sales tax.

“Consumption is a costumer choice,” City Manager Chris Hobby said. “The customer can choose whether they’re going to turn that spigot on or not. So they have some control over what they pay.”

Currently Bainbridge residents pay a $16 flat fee for water and sewer regardless of whether they have both services or just water. Under the proposed changes the base fee will be split and residents will only pay for the services that they use.

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“In actuality, and we have about 1,800 of these, customers who only have water would actually see their bills decrease under this plan,” Hobby said.

The base fee will also be raised to be more inline with other communities in the region, which would create additional revenue for the city to spend on capital projects.

When determining where to set the base rate the city council will have to take into account which projects they want to fund and also balance it with the median household income (MHI) in the city. At current rates the average yearly water and sewer bill in Bainbridge is $428.88 according to figured provided by the city. That equates to roughly 1.69 percent of the median household income of $25,366.

“EPA does put out some guidance and their guidance is that anything less than 4.5 percent of monthly household income is considered to be affordable,” Hobby said. “We don’t think that number should be higher than 2.5 percent but 4.5 is the federal guideline.”

Bainbridge is the only city in the region where yearly water/sewer bills for 5000 gallons used per month are less then 2 percent of MHI. In Cairo the average yearly bill is $647.40 or 5.54 percent of MHI. In Colquitt the average bill is higher at $721.44, but so is the average MHI so it only equates to 2.17 percent. Moultrie has the lowest average bill other then Bainbridge at $582.60, but the average MHI is the lowest in the region so their percent paid for water/sewer is actually the second highest at 2.54 percent. In Thomasville the average annual bill is $727.44 or 2.33 percent of MHI.

The proposed changes in Bainbridge would raise the rates where the average yearly bill will be around 2 percent of MHI. This occurs as a change to the base fee and an increase in the per gallon fee.

“Even with that increase we’re still the lowest in the region,” Hobby said.

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