Water rates may rise as part of the 2013-2014 Jonesville town budget.
Town Council members forwarded the idea at a budget workshop April 19 as a way to combat the need for deeper budget cuts. The water rate would not eliminate budget cuts, but could make them lighter than was previously feared.
To keep the tax rate at 40 cents per $1,000 on the assessed value of a property, council members will need to cut $110,000 from the general fund, according to officials. The council members considered raising the amount of return from the water fund to $90,000, a figure the town received several years ago.
The problem arises from the choice between volumetric and baseline rates. The town has previously raised volumetric rates to gain higher revenue from high water users, but the actual amount gained was negligible. Most residents use the bare minimum for water, which is causing the town to consider raising the price on baseline water users.
But that too presents issues. Boonville is in talks to buy water from Jonesville, council members said. With rises in water costs Boonville may decide to back out of the deal, of which nothing is in writing or finalized yet. However, Boonville would be charged a percentage of the in-town rate, which may allow some flexibility.
Water charges are given monthly, whereas property taxes are only charged yearly. The council hopes that if a rise in water charges occurs the residents would not find it as severe as they would a $70 increase per $1,000 yearly.
Other possible options include charging town employees 10 percent of their health insurance premiums. Costs for health care are expected to reach $10,269 per employee.
The police department may have to forgo any new patrol car if the council decides to cut its capital outlay money. Two cars were requested for the next budget and one was already cut.
Council members requested a 50 percent pay cut to help with the budget, saying they should not be above the cuts.
Cuts to donations may happen as well, such as the Jonesville Public Library, Historical Society, and the Chamber of Commerce.
Garbage fees may be raised. Currently the residents of Jonesville get trash services for roughly the cost to the town. The budget may require a profit to be made on the disposal.
Other options include cutting employee Christmas bonuses and choosing a lower quality of health insurance for employees. The town may cut the amount they match non-police department employees on their 401(k)’s.
Police departments are required to match their officers’ 401(k) plans.
Councilman Danny Lewis suggested one cut for the police department, one for administration, and one for public works.
“If we don’t [do something] the water bill is going to go through the roof,” council member Andy Green said.
Town Manager Scott Buffkin told the council that nothing in this process would come easily.
“This is not a decision I expect you to reach lightly,” Buffkin said. He added that the town had to either make heavy cuts or raise revenue, but it could not stand still.
The town is having to consider any and all options to make the budget work, but there is no silver bullet to cure the financial woes Jonesville is expecting. The next budget meeting is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. on May 10.
To contact Taylor Pardue call 336-835-1513 ext. 15, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.