Cobb Water System director Steve McCullers is expected to ask the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday to raise county water rates by 3 percent and sewer rates by 1 percent effective Jan. 1.
McCullers said for a typical 6,000 gallon per month user, which he described as a family of four, this amounts to a 93 cent monthly increase.
McCullers said the increase is needed because the county’s water wholesaler, the Cobb County-Marietta Water Authority, has increased the cost of water.
The sewer increase is needed because of rising costs of power and chemicals, he said.
McCullers acknowledged that the fee hike would not be needed if the Board of Commissioners didn’t transfer $20 million from the water system to its general fund to help balance the budget.
But as Northwest Commissioner Helen Goreham points out, “If we didn’t do the $20 million transfer, we would have to come up with the $20 million in some other fashion.”
Goreham said she likely will vote in favor of the increase unless other sources of revenue can be found.
“It would be nice if we didn’t have increases in the cost of services, but this is a reality,” Goreham said. “We still are one of the lowest priced water providers in the metro area.”
Under the proposed increase, McCullers said a residential customer would pay $2.91 per 1,000 gallons for the first 3,000 gallons used in any month; $4.49 per 1,000 for the next 12,000 gallons; $5.59 per 1,000 for the next 14,000; and $8.50 per 1,000 for anything above that.
“Clearly, this type of structure discourages excessive irrigation and other discretionary uses,” he said.
A 3,000 gallon per month user would pay $8.73 per month for the water used — excluding base charge and any sewer charge — while a 6,000 gallon per month user would pay $22.20 per month, well more than double the cost for twice as much water.
“The tiered rates hopefully make customers think carefully about unnecessary water use,” he said.
County Chairman Tim Lee, who also serves on the board of the Water Authority, said he supports the rate increase.
As for not doing the $20 million transfer from the water department to the general fund, Lee said that would mean services would have to be cut.
“I could also cut services too in the water department, stop doing as much stormwater work, there’s a lot of ways I could have not done that,” Lee said. “I could have reduced the number of people at water, I could have not transferred it over and reduced parks and rec services there or reduced our library hours, there are a lot of alternatives.”
McCullers is also asking to hire a security officer for the Water System’s Customer Service building.
“When people have their water turned off for nonpayment, they sometimes get a little agitated about it,” Goreham said. “I have gotten phone calls to my office with people very much upset when they go to take a shower and there’s no water coming out. If workers feel threatened, then it’s our responsibly to address that situation and provide a safe and comfortable place of employment.”
The $63,742 position would be filled by hiring four part-time officers.
Commissioners will meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the board room located at 100 Cherokee St. in Marietta.