Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Clay hopes that utility increases will allow city to “break even”

by Matt Hughes
J-E News Editor
Last Tuesday night the Clay city council heard their annual audit report from CPA Mike Overby. His findings backed up council members recent decision to raise utility rates.
“It’s been well documented that you should have been raising rates all along,” Overby told the council. “I know you are in the process of raising your rates, hopefully that will get you to the point that you can at least break even.”
For the fiscal year that ran from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013, the city saw a lost of $138,642 from it’s utilities, which include gas, water and sewer.
“Utilities are generally what makes the money that you need to pay for things like police and fire departments,” Overby said.
The city saw losses from all three utilities. Gas generated $356,968 in profits, but cost the city $419,849, for a loss of $62,881. The water department was close behind, losing $55,468. Sewer generated a loss of $20,293.
The rate increases are more important when you consider the recent cold streak. While on the surface it would seem that colder temperatures would create more usage from gas customers, the down side is that it also forced an increase in the cost to the city.
“Our gas price was $5.13 this morning,” said Mayor Rick Householder. “Earlier in the year their were two days where gas was only $2.95. The rest of the year it ran between $3.50 and $4.50. When you hear on the news about cold weather and power plants are talking about switching over from coal to natural gas, our gas prices go up.”
“We cannot continue to lose $140,000 a year,” said council member Todd Vanover.
“We are not raising our rates to make money,” said Householder. “When you look at our audit report you can see why it’s important for us to raise rates. We are just trying to break even.
“I’m for the increases,” said Vanover. “This is going to cost my home and my business about $200 a month. Even though it’s going to cost me, I don’t see that the city has any other option. We can’t continue to lose money. It’s not feasible.”
“It’s something we have to do,” Householder said. “If anyone has questions they can come in and talk to us. We can show them the audit.”
Council members voted unanimously to approve the second reading of the ordinance for the rate increases, which will go into effect on the bills that go out on March 20, 2014.
Although it is not part of the ordinance, several council members voiced concern over the cost of running the water house where residents can come to fill water tanks. Currently the charge is $0.25 for roughly 48 gallons of water, which is only about half a cent per gallon.
Council member Jackie Edens pointed out that the city itself pays more than that for the water.
In other business, council members finally voted their final approval on a business license ordinance that they have been working on since last summer. The ordinance would require anyone coming into Clay to sell any goods door-to-door to first register at the city office and purchase a $10 business license.
“It’s not a money maker,” said Householder. “It’s just to provide the city and our residents a little protection.”
The council has stressed at numerous times since they began working on the ordinance that just because a person registers for the license does not mean that residents should take that as a sign that the city says they are safe. All it means is that the city has that person on file at the office. Citizens should use their own judgement when it comes to doing business with strangers or allowing them into their homes.

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