Discounts for Reynoldsburg's seniors appear unlikely
The city's need for additional revenue seems to be at loggerheads with any plan to give Reynoldsburg senior citizens a discount on their water and sewer rates.
Councilman Scott Barrett asked for "updates on ways to handle the new water rate adjustments" at the March 25 meeting.
Council passed an ordinance last month that added a capital improvement project fee of $1 per 1,000 gallons of water usage and 50 cents per 1,000 gallons of sewer usage to residents' bills in order to generate funds to repair broken and damaged water and sewer lines.
Public Service Director Nathan Burd said the average resident uses 13,000 gallons of water per quarter, so the proposed fee would cost about $6.50 a month or $19.50 a quarter.
The water department has had to complete 121 emergency repairs to main lines in the past three years, Burd said, noting that many of the water lines in the city are 50 to 60 years old.
The city's 2013-17 capital improvement plan identified more than $5.3 million of water projects and more than $2.6 million in sewer projects needed over the next five years.
These include replacing water main lines at Brauning Drive, Crest Street, Gilmore Drive, Marlan Avenue, Olde Mill Run, Red Fox Road, Roselawn Avenue, Sabre Avenue, Saratoga Avenue and at Astor Avenue and Lucks Road.
Councilman Chris Long said two local businesses, Reynoldsburg True Value Hardware and Lowe's, have agreed to extend discounts to Reynoldsburg residents when they purchase a water-saving device.
"They can receive a discount if they produce a city water bill and identification," he said.
However, that's not the same thing as a reduced rate for senior citizens. Councilman Cornelius McGrady has been pushing for some kind of senior discount since the CIP fee was proposed. He suggested at committee meetings March 18 that council consider a discount that would reduce the CIP fee from $1.50 per gallon to $1.35 per gallon for senior citizens.
Burd said that might only save senior citizens about 40 cents a month.
He said exempting senior citizens entirely from the CIP fee would cost the city about $108,240 in revenue each year.
"Why are we discussing a discount that would give people less than $3 a quarter?" Councilman Mel Clemens asked, noting that he qualifies as a senior citizen.
"I think $3 a quarter is ridiculous, to be honest," he said. "I think everyone has to pay their dues. If you use the water, you have to pay for it. We have to pay the city of Columbus for the total amount of water that residents use -- we don't get a discount."
He said residents who do not qualify for the discount would be "subsidizing" those who do.
Councilwoman Monica DeBrock said the city needs funds from the CIP fees to fix broken water lines and reduce what could be more than $1 million in water loss in 2013.
"With as much water loss as we are getting, we have to get those lines fixed," she said.
Water Superintendent Mike Root said it might be easier for senior citizens and others with limited income to pay a monthly bill instead of a quarterly bill.
"I'd rather see us trying to go to a monthly billing cycle then trying to put a discount on the quarterly bills," he said.
Councilwoman Leslie Kelly agreed.
"I think it would be a great idea to move toward that monthly billing," she said.