Editorial: Projects To Lead To Annual Utility Rate Increases

By / Editorials / الأربعاء, 27 كانون2/يناير 2016 05:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

The Carolina Beach Town Council held a workshop meeting on Tuesday January 26th. One of the main topics was how to fund an estimated $63.2 million dollars for infrastructure projects to repair and replace old water and sewer lines in residential areas, add new drinking wells, dredging the Carolina Beach Lake, improving storm water drainage and other utility improvements.
That's a huge number. Say it out loud... $63.2 million dollars.
That's a scary number because it automatically makes one imagine money flying out of our wallets to pay that bill.
During the meeting there was a lot of information offered regarding various funding mechanisms including the traditional way; getting a loan from the bank. The other option is to sell municipal revenue bonds on the public market to investors.
One is short term (15 years) while the bonds are longer term (20 to 25 years). See the report on page 1-A this week for the details.
Regardless of which financing option the Town Council ultimately selects, the message repeated throughout the meeting was "rate increase" on the order of 10% each year for around five years or more.
I'm not going to break down the monthly utility bill we all get in the mail for water, sewer, storm water, trash and recycling fees. Everyone gets a bill and we all know the drill.
As a customer who pays around $80 per month for that utility bill (all inclusive), any proposal that calls for raising the water, sewer and storm water rates - individually - by 10% annually is very disturbing.
Granted, this Town has infrastructure needs that should be addressed. Water quality being the most often topic discussed by residents. Perhaps it's time for the Town to slow down and focus on prioritizing many of those expenses over a longer term. Exhaust all options and get a few more expert opinions before taking action that will have a substantial impact on every single residential and commercial customer in Town.
Not to mention those customers living on a fixed income such as senior citizens and the disabled. It's already pretty expensive to live in Carolina Beach. Every dollar adds up and at 10% a year increase for water, sewer and storm water fees will only make it worse. It's obvious some increase will be required, but only after our leaders have done everything humanly possible to assure us they have examined the issue multiple times with an eye on doing only what is needed in order to keep cost down.
If not, the next time someone proposes to spend a few hundred thousand dollars on yet another bike path, people will start to identify with the acronym OPM or Other People's Money. It's the easiest money to spend when you can force customers to pay up.

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