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Study shows need for water, sewer rate increases

CONYERS -- Rockdale Water Resources will need to increase water and sewer rates -- sooner rather than later -- in order to keep up with operating costs and maintain the system.

That was the message delivered to the Board of Commissioners at a work session Tuesday night by Lex Warmath, a vice president with Raftelis Financial Consultants Inc. of Charlotte, N.C.

The Raftelis water and sewer rate study, which was begun in 2011, showed that RWR's current rates will not generate enough revenue in 2013 to reinvest in the system to maintain current service levels, avoid depleting reserves, and meet 2014 debt service requirements. In addition, the current rate structure does not encourage water conservation, and sewer rate increases are needed.

"We ... want to recognize that right now water rates are subsidizing the sewer side a little bit, and we need to correct that," said Warmath.

Moreover, Warmath said the county needs to demonstrate to lenders that it is willing to increase rates to cover debt service and maintain reserves in order to preserve a good bond rating.

Raftelis recommended RWR adjust water rates by increasing the number of rate tiers from three to four and reducing the usage cut-offs between tiers. These changes would increase revenues while encouraging water conservation, according to the study. In addition, the study recommended increasing water rates for non-residential customers and increasing sewer rates by 15 percent per year for three years as an initial step toward making the sewer system self-supporting.

Without changes to the rate structure, "Starting in fiscal 2013, revenues are not keeping up with revenue requirements," said Warmath. "It becomes even more of a problem starting in 2014 because not only are we not covering all of our capital needs, but we are not covering our debt service."

For the purposes of the study, Warmath said Raftelis assumed usage would remain flat.

"Some (revenues) will come from growth," he said, "but growth is way down and many utilities are finding usage declining."

Warmath said that under the recommended changes, an average residential water customer using 6,000 gallons per month would see a rate increase of 5.8 percent in 2013, or $1.95 on a $33.65 bill. An average monthly sewer charge would increase 9.5 percent, from $39.23 per month to $42.95.

Warmath noted that RWR customers have not had a rate increase in several years.

"Given your history of not having raised rates, this is not too bad of a picture," he said.

Commission Chairman Richard Oden stressed that Tuesday's presentation was for informational purposes only. He said representatives from the Rockdale Water and Sewerage Authority would be conducting a series of community information sessions after the new year to discuss possible rate changes with water system customers.

Oden acknowledged that there is never a good time for a rate increase.

"You've got to put the facts on the table ... " Oden said. "If we are going to have economic growth, we have to meet these issues head on."

Comments

roots 1 year, 8 months ago

Well, for those of us using 6000 gallons or less, the rates should remain the same. For those using more than 6000 gallons a month, raise the rates (tax the rich). The users of 15,000 gallons and up per month put the strain on the system and should pay the lions share of the cost. The large commercial users need their rates raised as a motivation factor to improve their conservation of our resources.

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AJK 1 year, 8 months ago

Tax the Rich! Geeez, what is it with the class warfare in this country?

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Sundance 1 year, 8 months ago

I promise to vote against anyone who agrees with this. If less people buy your product, it doesn't mean that you increase the cost to the consumer. It means you need to trim expenses. You probably don't need as many workers if there is less demand. Maybe it's time to dig a well. I should have done it years ago. Some college would have done these guys a lot of good. My rates have tripled in the last 3 years.

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buck 1 year, 8 months ago

If the water revenue is paying for the sewer treatment, as it always has, why would you increase the water costs? This doesn't make sense!

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jrdbxr 1 year, 8 months ago

Isn't it ironic that this little tidbit wasn't brought up until AFTER the election? When are these local governments going to realize that continuing to raise rates is not the answer. People are losing jobs daily and having to cut back on EVERY aspect of their life. It's about time that leaders, both local and national, take a strong stand and DEMAND budget CUTS!!! Take a ride around this county and pay attention to how many Water Dept. trucks are on the road. Pay attention to the number of workers on the crews that are ACTUALLY working vs. leaning on a shovel or sitting in a truck doing absolutely nothing. The waste of money in this county is astounding and voters re-elected the

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jrdbxr 1 year, 8 months ago

(cont.) Voters re-elected the same leaders who continue to allow this to happen. You all are getting exactly what you voted for. You chose to elect ineffective leaders, now we ALL are having to pay the consequences. Thanks alot voters!! I appreciate your lack of knowledge in the last election..I now will have to once again cut back on the grocery bill in order to pay the new, higher water rate. At least I know those of you who voted for these crooks will have to pay the higher rates also!!

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sickandtiredoftaxes 1 year, 8 months ago

I would bet most of the ones that voted for these elected officials are on goverment assistance programs so they won't be paying higher rates the tax payers will.

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deathtotaxes 1 year, 8 months ago

How about some water deals that have been made to companies?

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Elmo 1 year, 8 months ago

"...current rates will not generate enough revenue in 2013 to reinvest in the system to maintain current service levels, avoid depleting reserves, and meet 2014 debt service requirements."

Sounds a little like water rates are going to cover what might happen in 2013 and 2014. While planning for the future is an admirable trait, who is surprised that the "consulting company" decided on a RATE INCREASE as opposed to CUTTING SPENDING?

It's a little "obamaesque", like, "I'll lower the spending later, if you'll increase the taxes (rates) today.

I'm thinking that we'll be revisited by the sponges of leadership in both 2013 AND 2014 when they find that "unexpected expenses" have reared their ugly heads, and we must have an even larger increase in water and sewage.

Especially when you consider the people just lay down took it in stride.

We'll see...

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roots 1 year, 8 months ago

Guess what? When rates go up usage will go down. Revenue will follow the downward trend and then where will we be?

Improve efficiency, cut spending, reduce staff and eliminate unnecessary services. If large projects are a one time expense, then contract it out to the private sector, don't waste money on expensive equipment that is going to sit unused.

And by the way, how many PickUp trucks does the RWR have in service? It would be intelligent to use EV's in our small county for all those running around trips.

What do I know, I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed anyway. Oh, by the way, EV's are Electric Vehicles for yawl that don't know. Small and very cost efficient.

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Elmo 1 year, 8 months ago

For the most part, you're right, but in addition to the "equipment" we also have no need for workers that "sit unused".

Insofar as EV's go, I differ with you. We don't need to pay workers $15.00 an hour waiting on their EV to recharge, and the city/county doesn't need the higher electric bills, outrageously priced battery replacement, or high initial cost of such vehicles - which have virtually no resale value.

And, down here it's "y'all"...not "yawl". If you were being factious, you should have put a [sic] after it. Just sayin'

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roots 1 year, 8 months ago

I'm a guesing that you be don't know much about the EV's wee's be talking bout.

A Full size PU cost about $27,000

A Mid size PU cost about $17,000

A EV has a cost between $8,000 and $12,000

I aint bes to good at siphering, but dems some numbers dat bes out there.

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pressman7 1 year, 8 months ago

And another thing...... there are a few select stores in the area, that are havens for RWR workers to scratch lottery tickets.....I have witnessed this going on for sometimes an hour or two even.

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82011 1 year, 8 months ago

No mention was made as to how Rockdale water and sewer rates compare to nearby neighboring water entities such as DeKalb, Newton, or Gwinnett. That was always the justification in the past.

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rockdaleredman 1 year, 8 months ago

You people make me sick. Nobody is forcing you to pay a water bill. Have a well dug and disconnect the meter. Oh wait. Thats about $10,000. Just pay your $30 Per month for the best water anywhere around here, and complain about the workin man that provides it. They haven't had a raise in four years, they are already under paid. You just keep complaining and keep using that water.

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Elmo 1 year, 8 months ago

I didn't think that people on city water were allowed to drill a well, unless it was grandfathered in, I could be wrong.

About the water...I've lived in 2 states, and 6 different cities, and Rockdale has the worst tasting water of any of them. It smells and tastes like chlorine bleach. For drinking, we use bottled water. So, I guess it's subjective according to the taste of the consumer, but, lie you, I have my own opinion.

Insofar as the workers, if they're so "underpaid", maybe they should seek another line of work. But that's no reason consumers should just Shutup and drink the water. I don't like celery, but I have nothing against the celery growers or workers.

Maybe it's not the folks on this board that "make you sick"...could be the water...just sayin'.

But, you probably don't like it when someone other than you has an opinion, do you?

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rockdaleredman 1 year, 8 months ago

Hey elmo, you know the same road that brung ya here from all those great Cities and States? Insofar as they travel in both directions, maybe you should seek another place to live. Just sayin'. I didn't say shut and drink the water. I said disconnect your meter. You can bathe in your bottled water too, insofar as you want. Oh yea, and I love celery. As well as your opinion.

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Elmo 1 year, 8 months ago

Actually, I was born and raised here in Rockdale, and ive probably lived here longer than you, minus the years in the military. The water back in the 50’s was much better, and a lot cheaper. Those who administered it stayed within their budgets, and the workers didn't whine, and were glad to have jobs.

The day I hear that you're paying my water bill, is the day you can dictate what happens to my water meter.

As for the celery, I see that similes are not your strong suit, so I'll try to simplify it for you from here on.

You're welcome!

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roots 1 year, 8 months ago

Back then the water intake was from the Yellow River. The tower is still there on the west side of the Ga 20 river crossing. The City of Conyers/Rockdale County gave up that intake to allow upstream counties to dump more sewage into the river as a trade-off for watershed protection for the Big Haynes Creek project. Ya'll all member that?

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Elmo 1 year, 8 months ago

Yeah, I "member" [sic] that...in fact, I "member" [sic] when the pumphouse was built on the river. Do you?

It furnished water for Conyers for many years.

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stevo 1 year, 8 months ago

I hope RWR uses some of these funds for some customer service training for their staff....

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rockdaleredman 1 year, 8 months ago

You are right elmo. The administraters of the water are not the ones I defended. Its the ones with the thankless jobs out there in the mud, the cold and anytime they are called out away from their families to make sure people like you have water and sewer service. I am sure if they could find a better job, they would. It doesn't take long reading your comments to see that you put your self above the rest of us. I was born in Milstead and raised here too.

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Elmo 1 year, 8 months ago

Regarding the workers, I guess you missed the line, "But that's no reason consumers should just Shutup and drink the water.".

I'll try to explain in simpler terms; using the "underpaid worker" status is no excuse to raise the water rates. I'm sure there are a lot of expenses in the water department that could be cut, including the "administrators" pay.

It's a matter of priorities, but that burden should not fall on the already overtaxed citizens.

Having experience in digging up water, sewer, and septic tanks in the cold of winter, I can completely empathize with the rank and file workers in the field, but their plight is the responsibility of their management, not water subscribers. The point I have been trying to make.

The subscribers - including me - pay their water bill every month into a collective fund to provide the services of the workers, and it is incumbent upon elected officials who create and maintain these jobs to keep them competitive. Businesses have to gauge their payrolls and expenses based on the amount of money they take in, and government should do the same.

Finally, if you read "self above the rest" into my comments, well, you have already shown that you missed the point on my previous statements, so it's understandable that you misread that assumption, as well.

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