Cities in the United States continue to struggle as aging sewer systems start to deteriorate further. Erie’s Mayor-elect Joe Schember, is focusing on the city’s current situation, which involves transferring money from the city’s sewer and garbage fund to help stabilize the city’s spending plan.
The proposed 2018 plan would include a $79.4 million spending plan that relies heavily on operating transfers.
Schember wants to examine these transfers and find a way for the city to stop relying on transfers to fund spending. The practice, which dates back decades, uses money collected from residents’ sewer bills.
The funds, which are said to have excess at the end of the year, total $26.5 million in the Sewer Fund, $10 million in the Refuse Fund and $3.6 million in the Water Authority. Schember suggests a plan that would gradually reduce transfers to allow more money to stay in their respective funds in case of an emergency repair.
Emergency sewer repair can cost the city as much as $2,000 – $7,000 per time a leak or repair is needed.
Erie’s mayor-elect plans to try and examine the issue further in 2019. The city will need to find alternative sources of revenue to help offset the loss of revenue from fund transfers.
Montgomery County plans on discussing potential rate increases on residents this week. The discussions will include water and sewer rate increases. The city’s normal rate increases go into effect on January 1, with the city planning on raising rates by 14% this year.
Residential customers in the country pay $170, on average, each quarter for their water and sewer service. The rate increase will increase this figure by $24 per quarter. Meter size will be the main factor in rate increases, with customers that have larger meters slated to have the highest rate increases.
Water and sewer rate increases are planned through 2022 with an average annual, combined, rate increase of 5.6% annually. The five-year plan will allow the county to fund sewer and water line repairs throughout county.
Aging infrastructure is straining many county and city budgets that often go underfunded. A major waterline break in downturn Lynchburg disrupted traffic this week. The waterline broke causing work crews to shut down roads as they worked to repair the waterline. The waterlines predate the Civil War, according to city officials.
The city is working on the waterlines for the second time since Thanksgiving. The waterlines date back to 1829. The same waterline was patched on Thursday and by Sunday, another break in the line was discovered.
Cities are routinely forced to patch leaks and waterline breaks rather than replace waterlines to meet budget constraints.
Breaks in older water and sewer lines is unpredictable. The breaks can lead to increased traffic and disruption in business. City officials in Lynchburg are using the most recent waterline breaks as a way to reinforce the need to renew the city’s water system.
Underfunded utilities are forced to spread out utility replacements and upgrades over the course of several years to meet budget constraints.