PORT ALLEN — Residents and local businesses likely will pay a little more for water, sewer and gas beginning this summer if the City Council imposes proposed rate increases recommended by Mayor Richard Lee's administration.
Chief Financial Officer Audrey McCain says rate increases are needed to replenish city coffers depleted by the costs of repairs and upgrades to aging equipment and infrastructure networks.
McCain urged the council to consider raising utility rates for the 2017-18 fiscal year.
"We're not here to make a lot of money. However, you get big bills sometimes, so you have to have money set aside," McCain said. "Only thing I'm saying is that we need to close the gap between our operations costs and the revenue that comes in."
McCain said, this year alone, the city has spent more than $500,000 to replace aging equipment used by a number of city departments. The council recently shelled out money to make upgrades and repairs to the city's more than 60-year-old sewer system.
"Because of that, the margin has been getting closer and closer between operation costs and revenue," she said.
Most of the council appears to be on board, despite reluctance to see user rates go up, however slight.
"We need to do something to remedy the situation," Councilman Garry Hubble said.
Any rate increase likely would be around 5 percent — 10 percent at the most — and probably wouldn't be reflected until customers' August bills. The proposed rate increases would generate between $30,000 to $40,000 a year.
At minimum, commercial businesses and residents are charged $19.62 per month for sewer service. Minimum usage level is anything under 3,000 gallons a month, said Adrian Genre, the city's chief administrative officer.
Any household or business that uses more than 3,000 gallons is charged $2.61 per 1,000 gallons for sewer.
The city's water rate is $9.25 per month for the first 3,000 gallons used and $2.03 per 1,000 gallons after that.
The city's gas bills can vary depending on customer usage, Genre said. Gas bills are calculated based on the monthly costs it takes the city to purchase gas from a distributor multiplied by how many cubic feet a customer uses each month. The city charges $3.54 per 1,000 cubic feet.
"There hasn't been a rate increase since 2011," Genre said.
The administration in the budget proposal has mapped out more than $850,000 in new capital outlay expenditures for the 2017-18 fiscal year. Among the list of one-time expenses in the city's proposed $8.8 million budget are equipment and two new vehicle purchases for the Police Department, replacing the carpet at City Hall and spending $375,000 in the final year of the city's five-year road program.
"They've been setting aside $300,000 every year for the past five years to do overlaying and maintenance on streets throughout the city," Genre said. "Overall, our streets are in good shape."
The City Council will hold a public hearing and consider a vote on the proposed budget at its June 14 meeting. A copy of the proposed spending plan is available at City Hall.