A monthly $25 water availability charge will appear on Lithopolis customers’ water bills beginning with the January billing.
At its Nov. 14 meeting, Lithopolis Village Council approved the charge by a 5-1 vote in order to meet the debt service payments on the village’s water plant. The lone dissenting vote was by Councilwoman Carli Hush.
About the water availability charge
The $25 per month water availability charge will be assessed to every platted and separately numbered parcel of land within Lithopolis, as well as village water users outside the village limits. The charge "is not related to the use of water service and does not rely on occupancy of the premises to be in effect…"
Lithopolis water users are billed monthly and the $25 charge would be a flat fee added on top of the customer’s normal usage bill.
Every parcel within Lithopolis would be assessed the monthly fee, even undeveloped parcels. The legislation includes a right to appeal based on one or more of five conditions. Water users outside the incorporated area would only be assessed on parcels with water service.
If regular water use collections increase and/or water capacity fees reach a level sufficient enough to meet operation/maintenance/debt service expenses, the village would suspend or reduce the charge for that quarter collection period. Property owners would be notified via their utility bills. Council has the authority to suspend or reduce the fee if the water availability fund is solvent.
Lithopolis’ current water usage rate is $6 per 1,000 gallons with no minimum. The per gallon rate was raised to its present level last January, which was the village’s first water rate increase in 15 years.
Lithopolis’ $3 million Ohio Water Development Authority (OWDA) loan for the four year old water plant was originally a 20 year loan that earlier this year was amortized into a 30 year loan to help the village make its payments. The plant has the capacity to pump 500,000 gallons of water a day, but officials say the village is only using 16 percent of that.
"The $25 amount is needed for us to tackle the debt service. It’s the absolute minimum we need to get by," said Mayor Eric Sandine stated in September. "It distributes costs among every parcel in the village. A developer is going to have to pay for those empty lots. Development has to pay its own way."
At the Nov. 17 meeting Sandine noted, "If January rolled around and we had nothing in place (to pay for the debt service) we could expect court papers (from the OWDA)."
According to Lithopolis officials, there are 699 village lots and 36 out of town users for a total of 735 potential users. It is estimated there will be about 200 lots that will receive waivers or exemptions from the fee, which leaves 535 billable accounts.
The water availability charge, when added to rents collections and other water collections, could bring the village a projected water revenue in 2009 of $399,360. The funds will go toward paying the village’s $190,000 annual debt service on the water plant and the proposed $185,000 in water operating expenses, which would leave $47,500 to carry over in 2010.
"We hope we won’t have to spend all of the money in the operating expenses budget so we can carry more funds over (in 2010)," said Sandine in a Nov. 17 interview.
Council also heard the first reading of the village’s $1.3 million appropriations budget.
The 2009 appropriations reflect an anticipated decrease in the village’s income tax revenue as Sandine said income tax revenues are down. He said that the village’s income tax revenue for the first quarter of this year was up 15 percent over 2007, but in second quarter was down 7.7 percent, the third quarter was down 11 percent, and the fourth quarter is projected to be down 20 percent.
Sandine speculated that the nation’s rough economy is the most likely reason for the downturn in income tax revenue.
"We’ve cut everything to the bone at this point," said Sandine of the budget.
The 2009 budget shows a reduction in the streets budget as well as the parks budget.
"In 2008 we had $12,000 budgeted for pothole repairs, but for 2009 we have $5,000 appropriated for that," said Sandine, who added officials hope to restore some of the proposed cuts/reductions if the income tax revenue improves.
Council will consider the budget further at its Dec. 9 meeting.