A consultant is recommending a 7 percent rate hike for Flowery Branch water and sewer customers to maintain and expand the South Hall city’s systems.
A recent report by Athens-based Nelsnick Enterprises says that existing infrastructure needs replacement and that system expansions and extensions are “most likely needed.”
The firm “has found (that) the utility is currently not providing sufficient system revenues to recover costs,” the report states. “The result is a depletion of reserves to balance the budget.”
City Manager Bill Andrew said City Council will discuss possible rate increases at meetings in the near future.
Nelsnick is recommending rolling out the rates in November, as that’s when usage is lower and rate hikes would have less impact on consumers, Andrew said.
“The main issue is replacing lines that are undersized or old,” he said. “And if we want to have money to begin expanding the plant, rather than go into too much debt, we’d like to have some money set aside.
“Our operating budget uses capital money to balance the budget, and that’s not sustainable long term.”
Also, Andrew said, “we’re looking to implement better management of our stormwater by having these rates come on board. We’ll eventually be able to get some funding to have a better stormwater program.”
Stormwater management has long been an issue in the city, with most of the older downtown area — which is built on a slope — relying on ditches to move water.
As of fiscal 2015-16, Flowery Branch had 1,164 water customers and 1,380 sewer customers, according to the report.
The city charges different water and sewer rates for customers inside and outside of Flowery Branch. Also, the city has separate rates for residents, businesses and multifamily locations.
The good news is “I’ve been told is our infrastructure is a little bit above average for cities of our size,” Andrew said, “but there is always work that needs to be done. And just because it’s above average doesn’t mean it’s where we want it to be.”