03/18/10 — Fremont residents could face rate hike

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Fremont residents could face rate hike

By Laura Collins
Published in News on March 18, 2010 1:46 PM

Fremont residents might see a higher water bill come July.

The town recently received the results of a study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Division of Government, which took a closer look at the town's water and sewer rate structure.

The study suggests raising the town's water rate an average of about 17 percent.

"We have not raised (water) rates since July 1, 2003. If we had done a cost of living increase every year, it would have been a 20 percent increase from then until now," Town Administrator Kerry McDuffie said.

The rate increase, if enacted, would affect residents differently depending on where they live. Residents who live in town would have the same base rate of $14.25, but the rate per 1,000 gallons of water used would increase from $2.99 to $4, about a 15 percent increase.

Residents who live outside of town would have the same base rate of $14.25, but the rate per 1,000 gallons of water used would increase from $4.52 to $6, a 19 percent increase.

"We are very pleased with the water rates, and it's one of the cheapest in the county, even with the increase," McDuffie said. "It's never a good time for an increase, but we need to make sure the revenue meets the expenditure. We have bills to pay."

The town opted against any kind of sewer rate increase. McDuffie said with the spray field expected to open in the fall and the leaks that have been found and will be repaired, the sewer system will function much more efficiently without having to raise rates.

The decision to take a closer look at the utility rates stemmed from a letter the town received in January from the Local Government Commission. In the letter, Sharon Edmundson, director of the LGC fiscal management section, cited several concerns with the town's budget.

"The town continues to have serious financial problems which the town's governing board must address," she wrote in the letter.

The first problem noted was Fremont's low electrical fund balance. Board members addressed that concern at the Dec. 8 board meeting when they voted to increase the electric rate by 4 percent.

The board votes on the budget in June. If the suggested changes are adopted, they will go into effect in July.