Brownwood residents will see increases in their utility bills in the 2013-'14 fiscal year, according to the city's proposed budget of just under $30.63 million.
An "average residential" utility bill — for water, sewer and sanitation — will increase by a total of $3.39 a month, or $40.68 a year, according to a summary sheet from City Manager Bobby Rountree contained in the proposed budget.
It is 1.1 percent larger than the current budget and does not contain an increase in the property tax rate, and does not provide cost-of-living increases for city employees. A previous Bulletin article incorrectly stated the budget does contain a cost of living raise.
For the past five budgets, the city has subsidized increased costs of providing services by cutting capital and operational costs without reducing services or furloughing employees, Rountree's summary states. Sewer, sanitation and water base rates have not been increased for six years.
The budget has been impacted by increases in areas including oil-based costs — diesel, gasoline, asphalt and tires — as well as costs in water and waste water supplies and medical insurance. Water revenue has declined because of drought restrictions and sales tax revenue has flattened. The Brown County Water Improvement District has proposed a 5.1 percent increase in treated water rates.
The budget proposes monthly utility rate increases of:
• Water base rate — 72 cents, or 3 percent, for a 3/4-inch water meter (from $23.95 to $24.67).
• Water consumption rate — 7 cents, or 3.2 percent, per 100 cubic feet of water.
• Sewer rate — 6 percent. The rate hike is proposed to cover bond payments for improvements to the waste water treatment plant.
• Sanitation rate — 61 cents, or 3 percent, from $20.30 to $20.91.
Medical insurance is increasing by 15 percent, totaling $216,368, and fuel will exceed budget this year by $70,115.
Costs of maintaining parks programs are increasing, and the city's ability to hire seasonal employees needed for parks programs "is being impacted by the new health insurance requirements of federal government," Rountree's summary states.
The proposed budget does not contain funds to replace the fire department's ladder/pumper truck, or Quint which is having "significant maintenance issues." A new truck would cost $980,000, and the fire department will try to make it another year with its existing Quint.
The proposed budget also does not contain funds to replace a cooling tower and chiller unit at the Brownwood Coliseum, which would cost $300,000. Both are very old but still functional, the summary states.