City To Continue Looking At Water Rates for County Residents

Toccoa City Commissioners are expected to continue to discuss a potential increase in water rates for customers who live outside the city limits in Stephens County next calendar year.

The topic came up again at a work session earlier this month.

During the city’s budget talks back in the spring, the point was raised that under a past city-county SPLOST agreement, the city was allowed to charge up to 1.25 times the city water rate to a county resident, but no higher than that 1.25 figure.

At that time, the city commission had requested information from staff as to what that would mean in dollar terms.

In October, city officials reported that if the city increased the county rate to the maximum 1.25 times the city rate across the board for residential, commercial, and industrial customers, it would result in an increase of about $457,000 in revenue to the city per year.

Toccoa City Manager Mike Jackson said at a December 17 work session that he feels implementing the increase is a good idea.

Multiple commissioners, including Vice-Mayor Andy Pavliscsak, said they are okay with implementing the differential.

“While the citizens of the county voted in the SPLOST to pay for the county-wide water system, that provision (the 1.25) was put in there because of those extra charges and costs to us,” said Pavliscsak. “Personally, I do not think it should be used as an arm-twisting event for people to consider coming in the city. I just think it should be looked at from a financial standpoint with regards to the cost for the delivery of the service.”

City Commissioner Gail Fry said she was concerned about the impact of the increase on an individual’s water bill, noting the economy.

According to information provided by the city, a county residential water customer’s average water bill would increase by $4.28 per month based on an average monthly consumption of a residential customer of 4,263 gallons.

In response to Fry, Pavliscsak suggested the possibility of increasing the base allocation for a customer from 2,000 to 3,000 gallons.

Meanwhile, City Commissioner Ron Seib said that he is not opposed to the differential, but adds that he does not want to rush into it.

“I am not opposed to the differential, but I would be opposed to all of a sudden waking up tomorrow with a 25 percent premium charge,” said Seib. “I think it ought to be a little bit more thought out and we need to communicate with the county because we are in this together and I would want to make sure we sat down with them and explained to them our rationale and have some rationale, and then just implement it.”

City Commissioners requested staff to provide more information on different scenarios, such as the impact of raising the base allocation to 3,000 gallons on the financial bottom line, in order to discuss them further before making a decision.