Reynoldsburg residents likely will pay more for water and sewer services in 2019, but the possible 3 percent price hike would be lower than the initially suggested 4 percent.
"Since we get our water from Columbus each year, they send us what the increase will be," Reynoldsburg City Councilman Marshall Spalding said. "It can vary from year to year, but generally is around 2 percent."
He said Columbus rates for next year went up 2 percent for water and 3 percent for sewer service.
"When we receive these increases, we then look at how much more has to be added to this to cover the new expenses in the city water department because this is how it is funded," he said.
The current water rate is $7.81 per 1,000 gallons used.
After discussion by City Council, city Service Director Bill Sampson said the proposal to be considered at council's Dec. 10 meeting likely would be less than 4 percent.
"Reynoldsburg is adding 1 percent (to the Columbus increases) to cover maintenance and operation expenses," he said.
He said if City Council approves the latest proposal, the 2019 water rates would be $8.04 per 1,000 gallons and the 2019 sewer rates would be $8.29 per 1,000 gallons.
In the past, Reynoldsburg has added a 2 percent increase on top of the Columbus rate hike. The extra funds go into the water department's capital-improvement-projects fund to pay for updates and repairs to city water lines, Spalding said.
"I reviewed the last 10 years of CIP balance and found that we should be able to only pass on an additional 1 percent and not hurt our overall balance going forward," he said.
Spalding said the 10-year spreadsheets given to council last month indicate the estimated CIP fund balance was more than $3 million. He said the estimated fund balance for 2019 is slightly over $4 million, according to the spreadsheet.
"There was one year we did not pass on any increase and the next year, the fund balance dipped below $2 million, which is dangerous and could put us in a precarious position for future development or protection against a large break in the lines," he said.
"In this case, I do feel that we can get by with a 3 percent rather than a 4 percent increase and still show growth in the fund," he said. "These funds can only be used for water projects and related issues."
Sampson originally sought a 4 percent increase in water rates and a 4 percent increase in sewer rates -- adding 2 percent over the Columbus water increase and 1 percent to the sewer rate increase.
"These rates do not change -- increase or decrease -- over the course of the calendar year," he said at the Nov. 26 meeting of council's public-service and transportation committee. "There are no additional fees or increases to these rates throughout the year. Our billing is meter-based and reflects household usage."
Sampson said Reynoldsburg manages its own underground utility lines.
"Our staff, who are on call 24/7, respond to repairs and leaks in these lines when necessary," he said.
Spalding said he believes the lower increase still would give the city enough funds to make those repairs.
"As a City Council, we have the responsibility to insure that there are sufficient funds available for repairs and the department budget," he said. "The situation has to be evaluated each year to insure that projects get completed.
"This year, we should be able to accomplish these needs with a 3 percent raise in the water rate rather than the 4 percent which has been proposed," he said. "The auditor and his staff were open in sitting down and allowing me to do workups for both scenarios and I am convinced that we can help the taxpayer in this situation."
Council President Doug Joseph said at the Nov. 26 meeting that Columbus water rate increases have been much larger in the past -- including an 8 percent increase in 2012 -- which ended up being a 9 percent increase for Reynoldsburg residents that year.
"We were right around 9 percent because Columbus was being slammed by new EPA rules and they had to build a new water treatment plant and they pass all of those costs on," Joseph said.
He said Reynoldsburg has "excellent water and sewer services for what we pay."
"I've been here 13 years and these are modest increases compared to some of the big increases 10 years ago," he said.
Paul Hellman, superintendent of the water department, said there are 143 miles of water main in Reynoldsburg.
"The systems are getting older," he said. "All of those are different sizes and different types of material, which tend to corrode, break or need repaired. The project we did on East Main and Baldwin - it was close to $2 million to just do the water main."