City sees over $70,000 in new revenue from utility bill changes
By Brandon O’Connor
The first month’s numbers are in, and the City of Bainbridge’s new utility-based revenue system has already had its desired effect on city finances.
“It’s working like we thought it would,” city manager Chris Hobby said. “We’re proceeding very cautiously. We didn’t jump in and just start doing stuff right away. That’s because we wanted to see how the revenue is going to trend and we’re still doing that. We’re still being very cautious.”
The city raised the per 1000 gallon fee for sewer to $1.97, while keeping the per 1000 gallon fee for water the same at $1.70. The city also split the base fee into separate water and sewer fees. The base fee for water is now $12.22 and the base fee for sewer is now $12.62 in the proposed budget. Residents that use both services currently pay a monthly base fee of $24.84. After initially removing it, the city also reinstituted a cap on sewage charges at 12,000 gallons retroactive to Oct. 1, 2016.
When adjusted for usage the average city water customer saw an increase of $10.78 on their water bill this October over October 2015 with an average usage of 8,900.
When not adjusted for usage the average bill rose from $43.73 last October to $57.27 this year, an increase of $13.54.
“We had estimated when we adopted the new rate structure, that the average customer would see about an $11.10 increase in their monthly bill [when adjusted for usage],” Hobby said. “We used more water this October than we used last October, but we had been 50 days without rain so people were using more water. Overall, I think it’s worked like we thought it would. The increases people are seeing on the average bill are a little less than we thought it would be, but we are generating the revenue.”
The city generated $71,090 in extra revenue this October when compared to October 2015. The increased revenue from the utility bills will allow the city to complete long neglected maintenance and finish projects through the city that have been planned for a while, all while lowering property taxes.
“You look at that over the course of a year and you’re looking at about $850,000 in new revenues and that’s huge,” Hobby said. “In order to have gotten that same increase on taxes alone, we would have done an almost 3-mil increase. Instead, we were able to roll taxes back by adjusting the utility rates.”
The first project the city plans to complete is implementing a new fleet management program that will enable them to replace old vehicles with new vehicles leased from Enterprise for a five-year period. The program is expected to save the city money in fuel and maintenance.
The city also plans to purchase new police cars, install a new playground at the Boat Basin and complete the riverside of the Boat Basin where the train engine used to be.
“It’s a game changer,” Hobby said. “You’ll see us develop the playground that we’ve been talking about for a long time. And you’ll see us doing a lot of work on that western side of the Boat Basin where the train was. I think all that is going to happen this year.”
With a more stable revenue system in place, the city is also working to develop a more forward thinking approach that will allow the council to look ahead and begin planning projects for the next 36 months instead of only 12 as they currently do.