City to raise water, sewer rates
The City of Vicksburg is raising the fee it charges customers for water and sewer service. In a tiered system presented by a utility committee comprised of city employees, during a work session of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, customers who use less than 2,000 gallons of water per month would see no increase. Those using 10,000 gallons or less would see a 4.9 percent increase in water and a 10 percent increase in sewer rates. Any residential customer using more than 20,000 gallons of water per month will see a 30 percent increase in their water and a 10 percent increase in sewer rates.
“Over 75 percent of residential customers use 10,000 gallons or less, so this won’t affect many of the residential customers in the first place,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “This increase does not affect senior citizens or disabled persons who are on a fixed income.”
Commercial customers for water and sewer service that use less than 4,000 gallons per month will see no increase. Any commercial customer using more than 12,000 gallons of water per month will see a 30 percent increase in water rates and a 10 percent increase in sewer rates.
“Let me make this emphatically clear, this is not a tax increase,” Flaggs said. “This is a fee for service increase and it is absolutely necessary if we are going to be able to continue to provide the best quality water service to the taxpayers of Vicksburg.”
The fee increase will affect the two rural water districts that purchase water from the city. Culkin and Yokena-Jeff Davis water districts will see the 30 percent increase and will most likely pass that increase along to their customers.
In addition to the rate increase, all water and sewer customers will see an $8 EPA fee per month.
“Until we can satisfy the EPA consent decree, this will provide us a measure of protection from increasing sewer rates as we perform work to satisfy the decree,” Flaggs said. “The City of Vicksburg can not continue to provide service based upon the general fund revenue that are coming in.
“A lot of infrastructure in the city was based upon gaming providing those funds,” he said. “It’s down and has been on the decline for the past seven years and we down being dependent on it 16 percent.”
“That’s down from 25 percent from seven years ago,” city accountant Doug Whittington said.
The city is increasing tapping fees, which are charged to connect residential and commercial lines to city water, gas and sewer lines.
Currently the city charges $161.73 to install a ¾ inch water line from the city’s service to a water meter on the property. The committee recommended the fee be increased to $750, bringing the fee in line with what Culkin charges.
The city will address the increase at its next public board meeting April 28. The fee increases were recommended by a committee of Public Works Director Garnet Van Norman, City Attorney Nancy Thomas, City Clerk Walter Osborne, City Accounting Director Doug Whittington and water and gas manager Tammy Christmas after reviewing a report by Jackson engineers Allen and Hoshall.
According to the report presented to the board in September, Vicksburg’s utility rates were insufficient to meet the needs of its utility systems and should be increased to adequately fund the present and future needs of the systems,. “We really don’t have much choice, we’re going to have to raise the rates,” Van Norman said at that meeting, who is chairing the committee. “ When you compare our rates with other cities our size, we are out of range. Even Culkin is higher.
“We don’t have enough surplus to handle infrastructure needs. The way our water rates are set, you pay less money for using more water. That’s not right. The more water you use, the more you should pay. The sewer system is losing money, and we have to increase its income to pay for the EPA mandates.” The city is under a consent decree with the EPA for allowing raw sewage to be discharged into the Mississippi River and other streams. The city is required under the decree to assess, upgrade and replace its 107-year-old sewer system within 10 years.
Vicksburg currently has 10,000 water customers and 6,800 natural gas users.