Bay to discuss another utility rate increase
By Dwayne Bremer
Jun 20, 2014, 23:42
The Bay St. Louis City Council will meet Thursday, this time to discuss raising utility rates for the second consecutive year.
The council has held at least six meetings, workshops, or special meetings in the past two months to discuss city finances.
After lengthy discussions, the council voted earlier this month to refinance a $1.6 million utility bond for a five-year term.
The move freed up about $400,000 this year, which the city will apply towards its struggling utility budget.
Bay St. Louis's budget operates under two different ledgers.
The general fund side of the ledger is funded through taxes, fees and services from the city, as well as state and federal funding.
The utility budget is funded primarily through fees paid by utility customers.
Mayor Les Fillingame said this month that the utility fund is having trouble supporting itself and a rate increase may be necessary if revenues continue to be lower than costs.
The city is expected to generate more revenue during the summer months and as more customers come online, the costs will decrease, he said.
City councilmen have questioned the need for the rate increase and stated that they believe the utility payroll docket is "inflated" with employees who do not work full-time in utilities.
The utility department currently has 19 employees on its payroll, which costs the city about $900,000 annually.
Several of the employees being paid through the utility budget also provide services to the general fund side, but are only paid out of the utility ledger.
Employees who do work for both general fund and utilities include, but are not limited to, the city mechanic, a secretary, a sign maker, and a city yard foreman.
Fillingame has insisted that the utility payroll is "as streamlined as possible."
Councilmen, however, said they believe moving employees to the proper payroll could eliminate the need for a rate increase.
"If the payroll would be in accordance with where the employees work, then the utility fund would be in the black," Ward Six Councilman Lonnie Falgout said. "I think we are putting a heavy burden on utility customers by not moving people over to the general fund-side of the ledger."
Thursday's meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the council chambers.