COVINGTON -- Customers of the Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority will see a rate increase, effective July 1.
Water rates will increase by 3 percent and sewer rates will increase by by 5 percent.
The rate adjustments are necessary to cover the costs of inflation, investment in system improvements, repair and replacement of aging pipes and equipment and relocation of lines for road construction, according to a press release issued by the Authority.
Monthly water bills will increase by 90 cents and water and sewer bills will increase by $2.70 for the typical residential household, which uses approximately 5,000 gallons of water per month.
For water only customers, that's less than $12 per year, cheaper than a meal at Applebee's or about the cost for two people to eat at Kentucky Fried Chicken or Waffle House, said Executive Director Mike Hopkins.
He said it's a pretty small increase in order to keep the system going.
He said many have probably forgotten in the early 2000s when there was difficulty delivering water to the west side of the county during the summer. It cost more than $20 million and took about four years to complete improvements to fix that problem.
If the Authority does not increase revenue to stave off future problems it could get in a similar bind, he said.
The rate increase will generate approximately $460,000 in water revenue and approximately $194,000 in sewer revenue, he said.
Rates have increased each year since 2007 with the exception of 2009.
The authority has experienced a decrease in sales of water of 25 million gallons per month compared to 2007, Hopkins said.
He attributed that partly to customers becoming more water wise and taking advantage of the Authority's tiered rate structure, adopted several years ago, which allows customers who use less water to pay less.
There has also been a decrease in tap sales. In 2007, 724 water meters were sold, compared to just 35 in 2012. Pre 2007, tap fee sales were between $2 million and $4 million per year, while the last two years, they were less than $500,000, according to Hopkins.
The Authority's Board of Directors decided several years ago to implement marginal rate adjustments each fiscal year versus a larger one-time adjustment that would have a more significant impact to customers, he said.
Hopkins said that two road projects -- one on Crowell Road and one on Ga. Hwy. 212 -- will cost the Authority about $1 million in utility relocations this fiscal year. The Authority is responsible for footing the bill for relocations related to local and state road projects, he said.
A summary of the Authority's operating and maintenance expenditure budget for fiscal year 2014 shows water revenues at $10,465,103 and expenditures at $8,119,768, and sewer revenues at $3,616,545 and expenditures at $2,663,011. Debt service and required coverage is an additional $2,923,978, leaving a surplus of $374,891. Hopkins said its recommended that the Authority have a 90-day reserve for operations and stressed that whatever is left over goes back into maintaining the system.