The City Council spent more than three hours during a meeting and workshop Tuesday, passing a budget, a tax rate for 2017-2018, removing its Economic Development Corporation chairman and setting new water and sewer rates.
The meeting was in the new technology center, 508 S. Second St.
A large crowd listened as board members set the new water and sewer rates using a white board and some quick calculations by Budget Director Ryan Haverlah and a representative from Angie Flores from Raftelis Financial Consultants.
Haverlah set up a whiteboard with all of the key figures and members of the council spent approximately an hour attempting to come up with rates that would not increase utility bills by 10 percent, but would keep the fund equity close to an ideal number.
“We got into this position because we didn’t increase rates (a couple of years ago),” City Manager Andrea M. Gardner. “This was not an accident.”
The fund equity ideal rate is more than $2 million, but that number has been diminishing over the years.
On July 13, the utility rate consultant, Raftelis presented to City Council the results of the 2017 utility rate study.
On Aug. 8, City Council provided direction to change base rates for water and wastewater from $11 to $11.77, eliminate winter averaging and the wastewater floor for residential customers, and change water volumetric rates by 1.2 percent and wastewater volumetric rates by 4 percent.
The city finally agreed to a rate of a base rate $11.77 for water usage, $4.50 for water volumetric rates; $12 for sewer usage rate and $6 for wastewater volumetric rates.
The rates are slightly less than what Raftelis suggested in July. The winter averaging will remain in the billing. There are more than 13,000 sewer and water customers in the city.
The plan would raise the rates between 2 and 8 percent — depending on the number of gallons used by customers.
Council members approved the 2017-2018 budget of nearly $39 million, with the city using about $1.7 million from its fund equity in the next fiscal year.
The board also approved the tax rat of 79.79 cents per $100 of taxable value assessed. Two hearings were held Aug. 15 and 22 with little comment from residents. The rate is the same as last year.
Adoption of a tax rate of 79.79 cents per $100 valuation will generate $6,563,821 for the general fund (50.6270 cents) and $3,756,911 for the interest and sinking (debt service) fund (29.1638 cents). The amounts are included in the estimated revenues of the fiscal year 2017-2018 annual budget.
Near the end of the meeting, members of the Cove Council voted 5-2 to remove Economic Development Corporation chairman Marc Payne from his position.
Council member David Morris called the move an “open and shut case” citing Payne’s involvement with the EDC obtaining a new lawyer and a non-vote on the issue of a land exchange.
After the motion was made, Councilman Jay Manning made a subsequent motion to table the issue indefinitely. That motion was turned down 5-2.
Payne addressed the board twice before the vote.
“I was not trying to create havoc,” Payne told board members.
He said the EDC had been trying to have its own independent attorney for nearly nine months.
Cove Council members were concerned because the EDC’s new attorney — not under contract — attended a meeting.
“I didn’t see the big problem. ... I was trying to abide by the rules and make a good choice,” Payne said.