When Steve Wyatt, a technical advisor with the University of Tennessee’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service (MTAS) addressed the Greenfield City Board in December, he explained the implications related to three consecutive years (2015, 2016 and 2017) of audits that showed a negative net change in its water and sewer fund. As a result, the board faces a February 15 deadline for a response to the state Water and Wastewater Financing Board (WWFB). Much of Board’s Tuesday night meeting was devoted to shaping that response.
The WWFB policy allowing for the negative stance for only two years drew much consternation from the city aldermen. Both Shannon Cotter, the consultant/grant writer working with the board on Community Development Block Grants who was present to close out a water-related grant and begin the process for a future application, and city attorney Beau Pemberton acknowledged that municipalities across the state share the frustration of having to contend with a policy that seems focused on ensuring there is “no free money. You have to live off of what you take in.”
The observations were tied to the fact that capital contributions and grants can no longer be seen as revenue and depreciation must now be factored in.
In December, Wyatt recommended removing the use of minimum volumes in billing, adopting an ordinance for a cost of living increase for all utility rates, and in 18-24 months, after data collection, to look again at waste water rates. The meeting Tuesday night provided the first steps toward those recommendations.
The board approved a first reading of an ordinance adopting changes to utility fees. The ordinance removes the current minimum volume and states a flat rate for a water customer’s base bill will be set at $6/month with a $3 per 1,000 gallons of water used above and beyond their base bill.
The ordinance adopting a cost of living adjustment for water rates was the subject of much discussion. As drafted by Pemberton to reflect Wyatt’s recommendation, the ordinance would have increased the rates for water customers by 3% at the beginning of each fiscal year. Immediately, Alderman James Roy Pope voiced his disagreement with having to take any such measure but also acknowledged that Wyatt had been clear that the board needed to include actions which would increase revenue. Pope therefore reluctantly asked to amend the ordinance to 1%. The ordinance passed with a vote of 6-2. Mark Galey and Bobby Morris voted no.
The board took several more actions and heard reports from department heads including the announcement of new police officers. For the full story of this #localnews, see the Jan. 10 edition of the Press.