Board of Aldermen OKs water rate hike

Published 10:07 pm Tuesday, April 26, 2022

NATCHEZ — Beginning July 1, the city’s water rates will increase, phased in for some over a five-year period.

The good news about that rate hike is, despite the increased rates, in 2027, Natchez Water Works customer still will be paying less for water than ratepayers do today in Clinton, Olive Branch, McComb, Vicksburg and a number of other, similar-sized Mississippi cities.

The Mayor and Board of Aldermen tonight accepted the third or three options for rate increases, presented by Tony Moon, Natchez Water Works superintendent, at the board’s meeting two weeks ago.

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Base ratepayers who use fewer than 300 cubic feet of water per month, would have a $2 per month increase for water and a $2 per month for sewer beginning in July 1. Base rate payers make up 38.5 percent of the city’s 6,939 residential, business and industry connections. This group would not see another increase during the five-year transition period.

The majority of ratepayers in the city — 46.8 percent — are those who use between 300 and 10,000 cubic feet of water per month. The rate for those users will be increased by 5 percent per 100 cubic feet of water used over five years, beginning with the second year on Oct. 1, 2023.

The 84 largest water users in Natchez pay 36.3 percent of Natchez Water Works annual revenues. These customers include hotels, some restaurants, car washes and industrial and manufacturing businesses.

Rates for those users, while they will increase, will do so at a more modest level over the five-year period. For instance, customers who use 300,000 to 1,000,000 cubic feet of water per month will see an increase in their base rate from $2.46 to $2.58 in year 2, without further increase in subsequent years.

Base rate payers have not had a rate increase for 15 years, Moon said. Other rate payers have not had a rate increase for 11 years.

“We are trying to get the word out for everyone to know why we are doing this,” said Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson. “The bottom line is expenses are increasing the revenues are not keeping up with expenses. We had a slight uptick in revenue recently because of the success we are having, but the bottom line is those two numbers are $500,000 apart and that has been the situation since 2017-18 and they have been living on savings because Water Works income no longer is supporting Water Works expenses.”

At the end of fiscal year 2021, Water Works expenses were $6.187 million versus revenue of $5.525 million.

The ordinance presented for the water rate increase also included a provision transferring approval for setting Water Works fees, such as deposits, late fees, disconnection fees and tap fees, to the Water Works Commission, away from the Board of Aldermen. The aldermen balked at that move, and amended the ordinance to strike the portion transferring that authority to the water commission.

After that amendment, the board then approved the ordinance unanimously.