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MSD Wants Sewer Rate Increase For 2017

Bill Rinehart
MSD Director Gerald Checco presents a budget proposal to county commissioners.

The Metropolitan Sewer District is asking for a 4.59 percent sewer rate increase next year. Director Gerald Checco presented the district's budget proposal at a public hearing at Wednesday's county commission meeting. The budget includes operating expenses, some capital improvement, and debt service.

Checco says he realizes a rate hike is tough for customers to handle.

"Despite all the increases of salaries, despite the increases of mandates, we work very, very hard to present a budget that is 0.2 percent above last year. That's extremely flat."

Checco says the average MSD customer currently pays about $55 a month.

"Twenty seven dollars of that has to do with the reimbursement of the debt, so there is very little that we can do on operating and capital that is not tied to, as Commissioner (Todd) Portune mentioned, the issue about the unfunded mandate that we are under."

The sewer district is undergoing a multi-billion dollar overhaul required under the federal Clean Water Act.

The county's oversight monitor hasn't made a recommendation on the proposed rate hike.

The budgets proposed by MSD and the monitor are very different.

County monitor Dave Meyer is proposing $8 million less for operating expenses and $41 million less for capital improvements.

Checco calls the monitor's budget "flawed."

"It does not acknowledge personnel contractual obligations. It does not acknowledge transition of contractual staffing to in-house staffing. It does not acknowledge mandates like the Duke Energy rider. It does not acknowledge operation and maintenance of new facilities," Checco says.

MSD made its original submission in August. Meyer says his recommendations are based on that.  He says the district hasn't explained all of the changes made since then.

Meyer does say MSD is asking for an increase in personnel costs without cutting spending on consultants.

Commissioners continue work on the budget next week.