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Water Authority increases rates to meet rising costs

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

In the wake of rising chemical and energy costs, the Clayton County Water Authority has decided to raise its rates for residential and commercial users.

The rate adjustment will go into effect on Aug. 1, according to water authority officials.

Residents using 3,000 gallons, or less, of water and sewer a month will see no changes in their bills, but residents using 4,000 gallons or more will see their rates rise anywhere from 1.8 to 7 percent, depending on usage.

Non-residential (commercial, industrial, and multi-family) water rates will rise evenly at 6 percent -- from $4.54 per thousand gallons, to $4.81. Non-residential sewer rates will rise by 8 percent -- from $4.68 per thousand gallons, to $5.05.

The stormwater utility rate will remain at $3.75 per month, per stormwater unit. The Water Authority's board of directors approved the changes during a June meeting.

The authority waited as long as possible before initiating a rate adjustment, according to its board chairman, Pete McQueen. "We know our customers have been hit hard by tough economic times, but we are seeing a 22-percent increase in our chemical costs and a 7-percent increase in our energy costs," McQueen said. "This rate adjustment is necessary for us to continue to operate effectively."

McQueen said the average residential customer uses 4,000 gallons of water and sewer a month, and with the rate adjustment, "They will see a 64-cent increase in their monthly bill."

Mike Thomas, general manager of the water authority, said declining revenues also impacted the authority's decision to adjust its rates. "Because we do not receive any tax dollars and rely solely on our revenues to operate, we work hard to balance funding necessary improvements, while keeping our rates as low as possible," he said. "This has become even more challenging when our operating costs are rising and revenues are much lower than normal.

"The last rate adjustment was about 19 months ago," he said. "We didn't want to do that one either, because of the economic climate. If we wait much longer, we risk not meeting our bond covenants." The water authority has approximately $216 million in bond debt, Thomas said.

He said for the average residential customer, "Their bill is going to go up less than a dollar a month." He said residents can keep their water bill low by minimizing their outdoor water usage and by participating in the county's toilet rebate program.

"We still have the toilet rebate program," he said. "If they have a house that was built in 1993 or earlier, they can go out and purchase a new toilet that will use significantly less water."

He said residents can get a $50 rebate when they buy a toilet that uses 1.6 gallons per flush, and a $100 rebate if they purchase a toilet that uses 1.3 gallons per flush.

For more information, call the water authority at (770) 961-2130.