CUMMING — Cumming Utilities customers will see an increase in their sewer rates starting in June.
The Cumming City Council voted 5-0 on Tuesday to change the price structure within the utilities’ service area, which also includes a large portion of Forsyth County.
Jon Heard, the city’s director of utilities, said the rate increase would progress over the next four years. In June, rates will go up $1 per every 1,000 gallons of use. Another $1 per 1,000 gallon increase will follow each June through 2017.
According to Heard, the average residential consumer uses about 6,000 gallons per month, so the first increase would raise the average monthly residential bill by about $6. The average bill would go up by an additional $6 per month each year until June 2017.
“That would be about a $24 per month increase in residential sewer bills by 2017,” he said.
Heard attributed the increase to several factors. First, the city spent a large portion of its reserve utility funds in recent years to upgrade various facilities.
“It’s been about $60 million in the time period from 2007 through 2010,” he said, noting some of the projects included a new raw water intake facility at a cost of $17 million and a new waste water treatment facility at a cost of $35 million.
In addition, the city has seen a decrease in sewer connection fees in recent years.
“When a home connects onto the sewer system, we generate $5,000 per home,” he said. “So if you have a large subdivision of say 100 homes, you’re going to generate a lot of revenue.
“During the peak of the building demand, there was a lot of that going on. We’re just not generating that much revenue from hook-on fees right now, so one of the things we need to look at is increasing sewer rates.”
Heard also said the increase would bring the city more in line with the sewer rates in other cities and counties in the region.
According to a 2010 survey from the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District, Heard said the city’s rates in 2017 would still be lower than the 2010 average for the region.
“The 2010 average for water and sewer rates in the region was $79.81 and by 2017 we’d be at $73.90,” he said. “Who knows what the average will be in 2017, but I’m sure it will be more than $79.”
According to Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt, the additional revenue will go back into the department’s reserve funding to cover costs of future water and sewer projects.
“This will go back into the reserves to replenish what we already spent,” he said, also noting that the city hasn’t had a sewer rate increase since 2008.
Added Heard: “We have a lot of infrastructure improvement goals … and we need to generate this revenue so we can put it in our reserves.”