BILOXI -- The expenses of operating the city's water and sewer departments are rising faster than revenue, Public Works Dan Gaillet told the Biloxi Council this week, as he presented three rate increase options to cover the shortfall.
One would increase rates 25 percent the first year and 15 percent the second year.
Under this plan average residential customers who use 10,000 gallons of water a month would see their bill increase from the current $40.92 a month to $58.82 over the next four years, for an increase of $17.90. Gaillet said 88 percent of the residential customers use less than 8,000 gallons a month.
The second proposal increases rates 15 percent the first year and 5 percent the second year, for a total of $8.49 a month for 10,000 gallons. The third plan, a 5 percent increase each year, would increase bills for the average residential user by $11.31 over four years.
"If we don't do anything we're going to get ourselves in a little trouble," Gaillet said.
The water, sewer and garbage funds are enterprise accounts and by law fees must cover expenses, he said. To keep rates lower, Biloxi is contributing $1.4 million a year from the general fund revenue.
For the large casinos that use more than 11 million gallons of water a month, rates would increase under the proposals between $10,000 and $21,000 a month. The current bills of $48,000 a month would jump to between $58,000 and $69,000 a month under the proposals.
The city worked to keep the citizens' water rates lower, said Councilman George Lawrence, and let the casinos and commercial customers pay a higher share.
On top of the increase in water and sewer rates, Biloxi and other Coast cities are facing much higher costs for garbage disposal after the landfill rates jumped this year from $2.88 a ton to $15 a ton. Biloxi residents pay $10 a month for garbage collection under the old rates and the new costs are more than five times higher.
Gaillet said the city doesn't have a formal plan in place to meet the requirements of cleaning and maintaining the sewer and water system or the legal requirements to provide utilities in the annexed areas in Woolmarket.
Listed as No. 10 on the administration's newly-released wish list of projects, Woolmarket water, sewer and drainage is estimated to cost $25 million.
City attorney Gerald Blessey asked what Biloxi would need to start laying pipe in Woolmarket tomorrow and Gaillet replied, "We need $20 million a year for five years."
"Do you have a schedule?" Blessey asked.
"As of today, no," Gaillet answered, and said projects would have to be prioritized.
Councilman David Fayard, who represents Woolmarket, listed the priorities in Woolmarket as "drainage and then probably water and then sewer."
If Biloxi gets an engineering study done, he said the city can apply for grant money to help pay for the infrastructure.