CLINTON — Sewer rates won't increase in June, the Clinton City Council decided Tuesday night.
Council members were faced with implementing a 9.5 percent increase by June 1, which would have taken the cost per unit from $8.18 to $8.96. Five council members during the Committee of the Whole meeting voted not to move this increase forward. At-large Councilman John Rowland, At-large Councilwoman Jennifer Graf, At-large Councilman Charlie Mulholland, Ward 4 Councilman Paul Gassman and Ward 2 Councilwoman Julie Allesee voted against the increase.
"I don't think we can sustain another increase like we have just put on taxpayers. I think we need to go back to the drawing board and be creative on how we can find other funding streams be it increasing our local option sales tax, even franchise fees," Graf said."Right now I just can't in good conscience vote for another increase this quick, this steep. Folks just can't afford it."
Interim City Administrator Jessica Kinser explained to council members before they voted that based on a cash flow model that was put together by Jenny Blankenship of Public Financial Management, the city needed to implement a 9.5 percent increase for the next three fiscal years in order to continue to pay for operations, debt and a small amount of capital while also building a cash reserve in the program.
The city has a roughly $2 million in delinquent bills. City officials use a number of tools to combat this delinquency such as using the income offset program and utilizing the lien process. They also restructured a debt for the $62 million treatment plant from a 20- to a 30-year debt schedule, which allowed the city to forgo a sewer rate increase in January and subsequent ones that would have been higher than 9.5 percent. These tools, however, have not been able to make a significant enough impact to completely avoid another increase, Kinser told council members.