Water/sewer rates to rise in Tryon

Published 7:56 pm Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tryon residents will likely see a rise in water and sewer rates soon. The increase will be needed to cover more than $300,000 in new debt.

Tryon Town Manager Justin Hembree has proposed a 10.45 percent increase in water rates and an 8.04 percent increase in sewer rates. Tryon Town Council said Tuesday the proposal was too high and directed Hembree to look for additional savings in the budget and cut the rate hike in half.

Tryon is faced next fiscal year with its first debt service payments on about $3 million for water plant upgrades. The annual payments will be $275,415. The town is also faced next year with another $31,473 in debt service for the joint water line between Saluda and Tryon for backup water sources between Tryon, Columbus and Saluda. Columbus and Saluda will also have annual debt service of $31,473 for the line.

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Hembree told council that even though there will be over $306,888 in new debt for the water department, the town is looking at an $109,448 shortfall in the department next year. To break even, water rates would have to rise by 10.45 percent, which would mean about a $2.93 per month increase for an inside city limit residential customer and an $8.59 per month increase for an outside city limit residential customer.

The town is facing a $40,401 shortfall in the sewer department and Hembree said to overcome that shortfall an 8.04 percent increase is needed. That increase would mean an average increase of $3.19 per month for an inside city limit residential customer and a $10.14 increase for an outside city limit residential customer.

Councilman Austin Chapman said Tuesday that if there are any additional cuts possible, the town should explore those prior to going to customers to make up the shortfall. Councilman Roy Miller agreed and said the town should cut wherever it can before going to its citizens.

Tryon Mayor Alan Peoples then told Hembree that a goal for him should be to reduce the increases by half for both water and sewer rates.

Several years ago the town adopted a slow phase of rate increases to cover the debt it knew was coming this year for the rehab of the water plant. The town has implemented increases over the past several years in order to cover the debt, but Hembree said Tuesday that the drought a few years ago and having three managers during the time period threw the projections off.

A lot of things changed and sort of created the perfect storm, Hembree said. Since the drought and mandatory water restrictions, people have maintained using less water and usage has dropped.

The town is looking at no tax increases for next fiscal year, which begins July 1, but is looking at cutting garbage service to one day per week for residential customers and five days per week for commercial customers. Currently the town picks up residential garbage twice per week and commercial six days per week. Changes in debris collection are also being considered.

Tryon will have another budget work session on June 14 at 6 p.m. A public hearing on the final proposed budget will be held later this month.