Customers of the Catoosa Utility District whose residential water bills have risen by almost 48 percent can tell the utility board what they think at a public hearing Tuesday morning.
The utility district board voted in February to change the payment structure, adding a $2.73 per-1,000-gallon fee to the basic charge of $9 a month.
Board member David Gattis said the utility district is trying to weather a perfect storm.
IF YOU GO
The Catoosa Utility District board will meet at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Utility District office, 1058 Old Mill Road off Battlefield Parkway. A public hearing will follow at 11 a.m.
Prior rate: $9 monthly fee included 2,000 gallons of water
New rate: $9 flat monthly rate, then $2.73 per 1,000 gallons
Effect: 2,000 gallons is $9 under old rate, $14.46 under new rate
Source: Catoosa Utility District
Slowed residential construction and the loss of large water customers like bankrupt Goody's Family Clothing have slashed utility revenues. Rising costs for supplies and materials, as well as the utility's share for improving water lines where the Georgia Department of Transportation is widening Cloud Springs Road, also reduced income, board members said.
Mr. Gattis said operating revenues last year were down 72 cents for each of the city's 18,006 meters. In all, the utility lost $157,943 in 2008.
"That raised a red flag," he said. The loss doesn't count special purpose local option sales taxes, he said.
The first bills to go out bearing the new fees took customers by surprise. Residents who attended a public meeting last week said they didn't know about the change until they received their bills.
Board Chairman Jerry Lee said notice of the change was published in a Catoosa County newspaper and on public access TV station UCTV-3.
"If we had sent out letters to everybody, it would have cost about $16,000," he said. "We didn't have room to print it on the bill."
Board members hoped to cover cost increases and raise money to repay a $6 million bond before it matures in six years.
"Our idea was ... we could go ahead and borrow money so we could put that (24-inch water) line in," board member Tony Henson said.
"If the spring were to go out tomorrow, we'd have no other choice but to receive our water from Tennessee-American and Eastside Utility District. The 12-inch lines we have will not take in enough water for our county," he said.
Mr. Lee said the board has worked to cut costs. Three employees who left last year were not replaced. Employees who change the office thermostat or leave a company vehicle idling unattended may face three-day, unpaid suspensions, he said.