Bond Payoff Won’t Curb Rates

WINNSBORO – Town Council held its second budget workshop April 24 as Town Manager Don Wood reviewed the utility fund, capital expenditure requests and grant match requests for fiscal year 2014-2015.

Next year’s utility fund is set at $15,349,538. Woods recommended a 2 percent cost of living adjustment for employees as well as a 2 percent increase in utility rates to keep pace with the consumer price index. Woods told Council to expect employee benefits expenses to escalate again in the coming year, but he said the good news is that the 1999 Combined Utility System Revenue Refunding Bond in the amount of $11,815,000 will mature in August resulting in only one more month of debt service. With the maturation of the bond and the resulting decrease in utilities expenses, Wood said the Town could forgo a utility rate increase, but he recommended that the Town increase rates every year enough to at least keep pace with the consumer price index which is currently at 2 percent.

“That would bring in about $275,000 for the year, which would help,” Wood said later in the meeting.

Councilman Jackie Wilkes asked if there was any kind of bond the Town could get if it decided to bring water from Lake Monticello.

“We’d have to allocate that cost to that expense for the debt service,” Wood replied. “With a revenue bond, the water profit would have to support the cost of the bond.”

Wood said Council could expect sewer pretreatment fees to jump from $3,745 last fiscal year to $14,576 in FY2014-15, a 33 percent fee increase. One reason for the jump, Wood said, is that they have not been increased for several years.

Looking at the Town’s capital expenditure requests for next fiscal year, Woods said it is more of a wish list, with requests totaling $1,820,601 in the combined general fund and utilities fund.

“That’s a bunch of money for us to come up with,” Wood said, “so we’re going to have to make these requests single-item grants, with Council voting on each individual request when it comes up. I hope that the public can understand that we’re not gouging anyone. We’ve got an awful lot of money coming in, but it’s all going right back out.”

Wood reported that the Town has applied for about $223,000 in matching grants, of which $86,117 are for the general fund and $136,900 for capital expenditures.

At the third budget workshop, scheduled for May 8, Wood will present a combined general fund and capital expenditure review. If another workshop is needed at that time, it will be held May 22. The first reading of the budget is expected at the June 3 Council meeting with second reading and public hearing on June 17. The FY2014-15 budget takes effect July 1.

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