Porterdale eyes higher water rates

PORTERDALE — In addition to a proposed property tax increase, Porterdale residents also face the prospect of increases in water and sewer rates.

The Porterdale City Council is scheduled to vote at its July 12 meeting on a proposed increase in the town's millage rate, from 9.156 mills to 17.618 mills. The council will also likely have a called meeting in July to consider a proposed water and sewer rate increase as the result of an increase in wholesale water rates from Newton County.

According to Porterdale City Manager Bob Thomson, Newton County will increase its wholesale water rates by 18 cents per 1,000 gallons on July 1, increasing the cost from $1.59 per thousand gallons to $1.77. Sewer rates are set at 110 percent of water rates under a city ordinance and will increase accordingly.

Porterdale's current monthly charge for minimum water use is $17.25 for residential customers. If the wholesale rate increase is passed along, the minimum charge will increase to $19.80. Sewer rates will increase from $18.99 per month to $21.81, based on minimum water usage. With the proposed increases, the total charge for water and sewer, based on minimum usage, will be $41.61 per month, an increase of $5.37. The rates are based on 3,000 gallons minimum usage.

According to Thomson, Porterdale purchases an average of 3.6 million gallons of water per month from Newton County, but does not sell all of the water it buys, as about 300,000 gallons per month are lost due to issues such as infrastructure problems and leaks.

"That's not bad, given the age of the lines," Thomson told the council Thursday night.

Thomson also noted that the City Council did not pass along wholesale water rate increases to consumers in both 2007 and 2008, although consumers did get a small rate increase in 2009. He said the rate increase is necessary this year in order to balance the water and sewer budget, noting that, even so, there is no contingency fund for repairs in the event of a system failure.

In addition to generating enough revenue to purchase water from Newton County, Porterdale's water and sewer rates must cover debt service obligations on two loans from the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority. Those GEFA loans — one of which was actually taken out by Newton County in 1993 on behalf of Porterdale — were used to fund water projects for the town. Porterdale makes quarterly payments of $39,300 to Newton County for the first loan and monthly payments of $10,118 to GEFA for the second loan.