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Water rates on the rise

WINTON – As of July 1, the rates paid by customers of Hertford County’s Northern and Southern Rural Water Districts will increase.

At their meeting here earlier this week, the Hertford County Board of Commissioners approved the increases by unanimous vote.

Those across the board increases – $5 for the monthly flat rate and a $1 hike per 1,000 gallons over the 2,000-gallon flat fee – were recommended to the commissioners by Hertford County Manager Loria Williams.

“We have financial weaknesses in both of our rural water districts,” Williams said. “They are operating in the black, but there is not enough revenue generated on an annual basis to create any fund reserve.”

Williams said she spoke with the LGC (Local Government Commission) about the financial weaknesses.

“As our oversight entity, the LGC always lets us know when we are having financial difficulties or heading towards financial difficulties down the road,” Williams noted. It was advised that we increase the rates, thus creating a fund balance for both water districts.”

According to the proposal, the residential flat rate increases from $20 to $25 per month along with a $5 fee per 1,000 gallons over the 2,000 gallon minimum. The multi-user rate (applied to trailer parks and multiple apartments served through one water meter) is now set at a $25 monthly minimum with a $4 increase per 1,000 gallons in excess of the 2,000 gallon flat rate. The commercial flat rate also reflects a $5 monthly increase – now at $25 – with an added $4.50 per 1,000 gallons over the 2,000 gallon minimum.

Based on the current year usage, the increases will allow the county to add $263,140 ($181,806 generated in the Southern District and $81,334 in the Northern District) to the fund reserve in the first year of the hikes.

The last water increase came three years ago, which was the first increase since the water system’s inception; the flat rate started at $17 per month.

Charles “Chuck” Revelle, who serves as legal counsel to the board of commissioners, said it was critical for Hertford County residents to understand that the water rates have no impact on the property tax rate.

“They are strictly user fees; you (commissioners) set those water rates and you include it in your budget ordinance, but it is not a tax,” Revelle said.

Williams also noted the increases were necessary in order to appease the financial entities that the county turns to in order to fund local infrastructure projects.

“In order for use to apply for future funding for water system expansion, we are required to have our rates set where the financial entities, the ones we use to fund those possible expansions, feel the system is sustainable,” she noted. “We had no other choice but to increase these rates.”

Commission Vice-Chairman Curtis Freeman stressed that no Hertford County tax dollars are used to operate the rural water system.

“As soon as this (rate hike) hits the public, they will claim that we increased water rates to help run the county. That’s not the case,” Freeman stressed.

Freeman made the motion to approve new fee schedule for the Northern and Southern Rural Water Districts. The measure passed by a 5-0 vote of the board.