Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Clay city council looks to increase taxes, save money on water

J-E Editor

Clay council members will attempt to offset a tight budget by approving a four percent increase to city taxes for 2015. The increase, if approved at a special called meeting later this month, will move the tax rate from 2.86 cents per $100 of assessed property value to 3 cents per $100.

For a property valued at $100,000, that increase will amount to $14 a year.
With the city already struggling with a tight 2015-2016 budget, another problem the city faces is delinquent taxes. Over the last several years the council has taken steps to collect on old debts, getting city attorney Ben Leonard in the pursuit of much needed funding.
Director of Public Works Paul Stone told the council that city workers had recently discovered a leak that had troubled the city’s water department for years.
“For years we have been using 145 to 155,000 gallons a day,” Stone reported. “We’ve had a thirty percent water loss for years. That’s a little over a million gallons a month.”

Recently a leak was uncovered near the Clay General Baptist church. The pipe was leaking underground and the water was running into a drainage tile, which is part of what allowed it to go unnoticed. Over time the leak had slowly eaten away the dirt above it, until it finally created a void.

The leak was costing the city around $3,750 per month. That will mean an annual savings of approximately $45,000.

Since then the city has seen a significant decrease in the amount of water they purchase on a monthly basis. That decrease will generate a significant savings for the city.

Stone also told council members that they would soon need to consider adding a mixing valve to the city’s water tank. Due to regulations on water purity, the city is constantly raising and lowering the water levels in the tank to get as much old water out as possible.

Unfortunately, that process doesn’t get much of the water that rests at the top of the tank.
This is caused by the water entering and leaving the tank through the same valve, which is at the bottom of the tank. Occasionally run the water department has to overflow the tank in order to get rid of the water at the top, which results in a significant loss.

Purchasing the valve isn’t an immediate necessity, but Stone urged the council to consider it in the near future.

The valve will cost between $20-30,000.

Council members approved the first reading of an ordinance creating a pay raise for employees Kristie Freeman and Frank Reinhart. Recently the council voted to do away with the employees’ insurance policy. In it’s place they approved pay raises for all employees, hoping to off set some of the cost of purchasing insurance on their own. In some cases this has created a hardship for employees, who voiced their opinion to the council.

“It’s a great savings with the way we are doing things now,” said Mayor RickHouseholder. “Can we afford a few $100 more? Sure, but you’re probably not going to get anymore money the next four years. When we stop here, that’s probably going to be it.”

The city will be looking at paving some streets in the near future. At the top of that list are Nall Street, First Street, Park Street, Short Street and Nelson Street.

There are also several sidewalks that the council agreed are in need of repair, but the council will have to consider how those will be funded. According to Mayor Householder, the city used to pay half while billing the homeowner for the other half of the sidewalk in front of their property.

“Then we had a problem where a sidewalk was broken up but the homeowner didn’t want to replace it,” he said. “You can’t make them pay if they don’t want to pay.”
The next regular meeting of the council will be on Tuesday, September 8, 2015.

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