City water, garbage fees to increase in November

First, the bad news: Biloxi residents will see higher water and sewer bills and an increase in the monthly garbage fee beginning in November, and those in the Eagle Point and Woolmarket areas, who had been paying a minimal amount for garbage pickup through their annual property taxes, will begin paying the full fee for the first time.

The good news: Even with the adjustments, Biloxi residents enjoy the lowest fees for water and garbage service of any city in South Mississippi and one of the lowest of any community in the entire southeastern U.S. In fact, the Biloxi fees are about half what residents of other cities pay.

The city’s water and sewer rates will increase by $1.96 per thousand gallons, and the monthly garbage fee will increase by $2.50, to $7.50 per receptacle.

The fee adjustments — which were discussed in the city’s municipal budget process and formally approved this week by the City Council — will help overcome a $400,000 shortfall in the city’s $2 million expense in garbage collection, and meet debt service payments for the Harrison County Utility Authority, which is resuming debt service payments that had been deferred in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

And for residents of Cedar Lake, Eagle Point and Woolmarket, the state Attorney General has said that the city cannot continue to charge residents less money than it spends to pick up garbage.

The city is sending out notices to residents about the changes in the next week, before the new bills are mailed.

“For years, you and your fellow residents paid for your garbage collection through your county property taxes,” the postcard to Woolmarket residents reads.

“When Woolmarket became part of Biloxi, the city continued to allow Woolmarket residents to pay for garbage collection through property taxes, even though Biloxi’s property tax rate is so low that the amount was not enough to cover the cost of bi-weekly garbage collection. The difference has been made up by using other taxes, namely gaming revenue.

“The city has been notified by the state Attorney General that municipalities must charge a fee to cover the cost of services rendered.”