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ROGERSVILLE — The average Rogersville water/sewer customer inside the city limits will be seeing their monthly bill increase by $15, based on rates approved Tuesday evening.

On Tuesday, the Rogersville Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the first and second readings of its 2021-22 general fund budget and water department budget.

A special called meeting was scheduled for June 30 at 6 p.m. for a public hearing, followed by consideration of the third and final reading of both budgets. Assuming the rates and budgets are approved at that time the new water/sewer rates take effect July 21.

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State ordered a Water Department rate study

City Recorder Glenn Hutchens told the Times News on Wednesday that the state had ordered Rogersville to conduct an economic study on the water department after expenditures exceeded revenue for three consecutive fiscal years.

The rate increases approved on Tuesday were recommended by the engineering firm of Mattern and Craig, which conducted that study. The area most in need of additional revenue is sewage treatment, which increases 56% for the average user next year.

Water for city residents increases 5% next year.

The state requires water systems to be economically self sufficient, and usually after two consecutive deficit years the state steps in and imposes mandatory rate increases.

Rogersville was given an extension to allow for completion of the economic study. The city was then told by the state to adhere to the rates recommended in the study, which will also increase a small amount each year through 2027.

The annual rate schedule can be found in the online version of this article at www.timesnews.net

The average residential water customer uses about 4,000 gallons per month. Currently that monthly bill inside the city is $56.78 (combined sewer and water). With the new rates the combined water/sewer bill inside the city in 2021-22 will be $71.88, an increase of $15.10.

The water portion of the bill for residents inside the city who use 4,000 gallons per month would increase from $32.55 currently to $34.19 in 2021-22, with slight increases scheduled each year through 2026-27 when the rate would be $40.18.

As for the sewer side, the average 4,000 gallon user would see the sewer portion of their monthly bill increase from $24.23 currently to $37.69 in 2021-22. There are additional slight increases in the sewer rate through 2026-27 where the monthly rate for a residence using 4,000 gallons will be $40.58.

That sets the average combined water/sewer bill in 2026-27 at $80.76.

Rogersville doesn’t provide sewer outside the city, and its outside water rates are already higher. Based on the recommendation approved by the BMA on Tuesday, the outside water rate ($53.69 for 4,000 gallons) won’t be affected until 2026-27 when it increases to $54.48.

General fund budget approved with estimated $800K deficit

As for the general fund budget, Rogersville received its state-certified tax rate, which takes into account property value increases due to this year’s reassessment. Rogersville’s certified tax rate approved on Tuesday is $1.517, down from the previous $1.67.

Rogersville’s budget was approved with a $806,974 deficit, with revenue budgeted at $5.936 million, and expenditures budgeted at $6.743 million.

Hutchens noted, however, that the budget traditionally overestimates expenditures and underestimates revenue. Last year the city approved a similar budget for 2020-21 and actually returned $182,000 into the undesignated fund balance, Hutchens said.

The general fund budget is projected to end the 2020-21 fiscal year on June 30 with an undesignated fund balance of $2.208 million.

Among the new expenditures included in the 2021-22 general fund budget are $150,000 for paving; $125,000 for a dump truck; $56,000 for a mini-excavator with a plow; $240,000 for six SUVs for the police department; $70,000 for a 3% pay increase for city employees (excluding the water department), and $100,000 for park improvements.

Water Department employees receive a 1% pay increase.

No funding is allocated for the new City Hall, gymnasium, and indoor pool project on Main Street. That project is still in the planning phase, and will likely require a bond issue when the time comes to begin construction, Hutchens said.