Council, administration mull water, sewer rates

Members of the administration and City Council continued budget talks this morning and afternoon, and although no votes have been taken on the FY 2010 budget, councilmembers made clear one thing: They have no appetite for trimming employee pay or benefits.

Increasing water and sewer rates to offset a projected $5 million deficit in the city’s water and sewer operations also met with resistance, with some councilmembers hoping to avoid increasing rates for low-income residents and passing the majority of the increases on to high-end users, who represent a fraction of the city’s 12,000 water and sewer customers.

Mayor A.J. Holloway and Director of Administration David Staehling have advocated a 20-cent per thousand gallons increase for all users, plus an across-the-board $2.58 surcharge for each thousand gallons of water treated at wastewater treatment plants. The surcharge would be limited to wastewater.

“The less water you use, the less you pay,” said consultant Kreg Overstreet, who analyzed the city’s water and sewer rates. “With this preferred option, using the surcharge, you’re telling people exactly what that money is being used for – for debt service for sewer operations.”

The city, which has the lowest water-and-sewer rates on the Coast and among the lowest in the Southeast, faces increased debt-service costs to make up for payments that the Harrison County Utility Authority had waived in the wake of Katrina.

The council plans to discuss the water-and-sewer issue again during a budget workshop on Monday at 1:30 p.m. at City Hall.

To see the 16-page analysis of the city’s water and sewer operations – with several rate options – click here.

News and notes

Katrina poster: To print a full-color poster about the city’s Katrina milestones and memories, click here.

Fire photos, video: To see photos from the small fire in the roof at the as-yet-officially-unopened portion of the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center, click here. To see video of Biloxi firefighters wrapping up operations at the fire, click here.

Game move: Biloxi Public Schools Athletic Director Tom Gladney has announced that Friday night’s high school football game with St. Martin has been moved to the Biloxi High School campus. For details on the move, click here.