Increase will pay for bond; will be final at budget vote

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

The Alice City Council continued discussions Wednesday on the 2007-2008 fiscal year city budget and announced proposed fee rates for a number of city services.

The council accepted a proposal from city staff to increase water rates by 9.8 percent, to fund a recently passed bond to repair the city's water and waste water infrastructure.

Under the proposed plan, the cost of the bond will be repaid exclusively through increases in water and wastewater rates, with no tax increase to the voters.

According to information provided by the city, under the new rate the average household inside the city will experience an increase of $52.70 per year, based on a rate of usage of 61,000 gallons per year.

An average business in the city will experience an increase of $181.50 per year, based on a rate of usage of 327,000 gallons per year.

The 9.8 percent increase in water rates is expected to generate an additional $555,765 to the city, which will be used to pay the debt incurred by issuing the bonds to repair the infrastructure.

The council also chose to accept a proposal from city staff to increase the fees charged for creating new water and waste water connections to the city's existing system.

The proposed fee for adding residential lines increased from $325 to $500. On the commercial side, connection fees for one-inch lines increased from $450 to $900, fees for one-and-a-half inch lines increased from $675 to $1,350, and fees for two-inch lines increased from $800 to $1,650. The new fees were required, city officials said, to help pay for increased costs in supplies and water meters.

The council also announced a reduction in an end-of-year salary adjustment for all employees, essentially a Christmas bonus, from $500 to $250. The salary adjustment is expected to cost the city a minimum of $67,036.

All fee changes and salary adjustments will not be final until the council votes to adopt the city budget later this month.

In other business, the council authorized the city manager to enter into discussions with Sandra Ramos, the operator of the Fairway Grill at the municipal golf course, to renegotiate the terms of her lease. Ramos currently leases the space for the grill from the city at a rate of $2,000 per month. The council tabled the item until a new agreement can be presented.