Macon Water Authority bills to rise the next three years

mstucka@macon.comNovember 8, 2013 

A typical Macon Water Authority bill will increase by several dollars each month beginning next year.

The roughly 7 percent price increase will also be followed by back-to-back 5-percent increases in the following two years.

Part of the reason for the increase: It rained a lot in the last year. A lack of outdoor watering knocked millions of dollars in anticipated revenues from the water authority’s coffers. (The Macon area has had more than 22 inches of rain above normal in the last year.)

Tony Rojas, executive director of the authority, said Friday that the average monthly bill for all customers -- including residential, commercial and industrial users -- is $50.08 this year. That is anticipated to increase to $53.59 next year, then $56.38 and then $59.18.

Average bills will be lower for residents who use less water and sewer service.

Board chairman Kirby Godsey said before the vote that the authority is keeping reasonable rates while ensuring it’s financially viable.

“The proposed rates ensure that our customers and our community will continue to enjoy rates that remain affordable and competitive, lower than most of our competitors, actually,” he said.

Vice chairman Frank Patterson initially cast the sole no vote on the measure, then asked to change his vote to unite with the rest of the board.

Patterson told The Telegraph he would have had no problem voting for a single year’s worth of increase, but he didn’t want to vote for three years at a time.

“My feeling was it was a little too much, but they’d got figures to back it up,” Patterson said.

Rojas’ latest report to board members shows that water sales fell $3.5 million under budget, or nearly 15 percent, while sewer sales came $1.3 million under budget in the latest year.

Expenses were also lower, but not nearly enough to make up for the revenue shortfall. Rojas said the net income will likely miss budget by $2.7 million to $3 million.

Rojas told The Telegraph that the Macon Water Authority’s rates are lower than those found in 90 percent of similarly sized water authorities in Georgia. The authority’s service is more affordable than that of 85 percent of all water and sewer authorities, he said.

Board member Steve Rickman said Thursday’s vote will “ensure good, reasonable rates, the best rates in the state” while keeping the authority financially viable.

The three years of increases will take effect automatically, unless the board votes to change them.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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