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Water rates to remain the same

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Water rates to remain the same
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON —In a spirited discussion Monday afternoon, the Worthington Public Utilities Water and Light Commission set a goal to keep the wastewater rates the same as they were a year ago.

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The commission also approved taking money from reserves to keep water rates the same as last year.

Without knowing the exact wastewater rates, the budget could not be approved during Monday’s regular meeting that lasted more than two hours. However, WPU General Manager explained within that budget is an added $100,000 for a facilities study,

“It will look at the treatment plant and collection system,” Hain said. “It will essentially establish a roadmap going forward as to what we need to do with those facilities.”

Originally, the budget called for a rate increase of more than 6 percent.

“The usage charge would go up from $2.99 to $3.18 or a 6.27 percent increase,” Hain said.

However, the commission didn’t agree with the increase set forth in the budget.

“I think what’s important to understand is we’re going to put a rate increase on the general public and if we don’t go out and spend it just to spend it and we come in with a reserve, we have to look at having a rate decrease next year,” commission member Ron Wood said. “We’re suddenly adding to a reserve that’s big enough.”

Member Kevin Donovan agreed the reserves are more than adequate.

“That’s like every other reserve in here when you look at it and think, ‘Whoa,’” he said.

“I think it’s something on all of our funds we have to look at,” Wood said. “That’s probably the thing I have to answer to the most as an elected official. Those who look at the balance sheets, we really have to make sure we have a good explanation, that’s why I’m not fighting spending $100,000 on a study, then we can say this is what we need. If we have too much, we’ll have to look at our rate structure next year.”

Commission member Randy Thompson suggested keeping the rate at an even $3.

“Could we hold the rate at $3 for the 2014 rate instead of going to $3.18?” Thompson asked.

Hain said reserves could be added to keep the rate even.

“My point is we have this much in reserves, why don’t we do what Randy just said and use some of this reserves to keep that number low, unless we’re saving for a rainy day,” Donovan said.

In the end, the commission didn’t make a decision on the wastewater rates, but will look at more numbers at its next meeting.

 “We talked about conservation rates, it all comes down to if we want to send a message or don’t we,” Hain said. “The water budget I’m going to show you next is essentially revenue is adequate to cover all expenses at the current rates. We wouldn’t have to do anything. I think one thing we don’t want to do is sell our water for any cheaper than we do now.”

The commission would have to move money from reserves to the water fund to balance out the expected revenues for next year.

During the meeting, the members also heard a presentation from Hain about potential conservation rates. However, the commission did not take action.

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