City considering across-the-board water rate increase

Water and sewer rates for all Biloxi homes and businesses would increase anywhere from 4 to 7 percent under a new rate scenario being considered by the City Council.

The council will have a workshop for Friday at 10:30 a.m. to discuss the issue. The meeting will be held at City Hall and is open to the public.

Councilmembers requested an alternative to Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich’s proposed rate structure that would have increased rates only for those who use more than  8,000 gallons of water a month. Those high-end users account for only 11 percent of the city’s 13,500 water customers, but account for 75 percent of the city’s annual water usage.

The new option would be have structured rates, with categories for those who use under 3,000 gallons of water each month, those who use between 3,000 to 6,000, 6,000 and 8,000, 8,000 to 25,000 and those who use more than 25,000. Over five years, overall rates would increase anywhere from 20 to 26 percent, or a total of 87 cents to $1.22 per thousand gallons of water, depending on the amount of water used each month.

For instance, those who use between 3,000 and 6,000 gallons of water a month will see rates increases of 4 percent the initial year, with incremental increases each year over five years, totaling 20 percent, or 87 cents per thousand gallons of water. The high-end users would see rates increase 7 percent the first year, 9 percent the second year and over five years totaling 26 percent, or $1.22 per thousand gallons.

The rate adjustments are being prompted by the need to generate the $17.3 million annual expense of providing water and sewer service to Biloxi residents and businesses. An attorney general’s opinion says that municipalities must recover the cost of providing a service.

The city for years has subsidized the water department to keep rates low, but state law requires the W&S Fund to be self-sufficient. Even with the proposed increase, Biloxi still has the lowest rate structure on the Coast.

Garbage fee may increase: In addition to water and sewer rates, the city is also considering increasing its garbage rate from $10 per month to $13 a month in 2016 and $16 a month in 2017 to cover the expense of twice-weekly household garbage pickup and weekly recycling program.

For years, the city has charged residents $10 a month for a service that now costs the city $17.15 a month for each household.
See the new proposed water rates
See background on the issue