In July 2016, water and sewer rates for the City of Russellvile were questioned by former mayor Shirlee Yassney and her daughter Amy Stafford with claims they were too high.
Other issues the two had with the city included water loss, a surcharge the city imposes, reinvesting into the system, and the insuring of a bank account. The mother-daughter duo also thought it would be in the best interest of the city’s citizens to form a Citizen Advisory Board for Public Utilities. These questions prompted the city’s mayor and council to request a rate study by the Kentucky Rural Water Association (KRWA).
On Tuesday, Nov. 22, the council met and results of the study were given by Andy Lang of KRWA. Yassney was present at the meeting, but Stafford was not.
Lang handed out several diagrams showing the city’s financial performances over the past three years in water and sewer, its operating expenses, debt service, and Non Revenue Water (water loss).
“I have good news tonight,” reported Lang. “I am not recommending you raise your rates.”
Lang did recommend the city revisit their water and sewer rates in three years, which is generally common in municipalities. The last rate study conducted in the city was 10 years ago.
One of the issues Yassney and Stafford had was a .55 cent surcharge citizens were paying, which was added to help pay for debt. Lang suggested leaving the surcharge alone and looking at dropping it in three years.
In 2016, the city’s operating revenue for water and sewer to date was $4,122,924 with operating expenses at $3,030,569. The debt expense is $585,667, with depreciation expense at $771,599. The diagram did not show the line item for capital improvements.
According to the study, the city’s Non Revenue Water (water loss) for 2016 is 107,075 gallons (36.1 percent), which cost the city $418,663. In 2015 the city lost 106,815 (36.0 percent) at a cost of $417,647, and in 2014 water loss was 107,117 (37.2 percent) at $418,827.
“The average Non Revenue Water is 30 percent. Your percentages are a little on the higher end, but that doesn’t surprise me with the age of your system,” said Lang, who suggested the city continue trying to lower that number. “You are doing a good job with the old system you have.”
Lang also handed out a rate comparison for area utilities. He calculated a monthly water-sewer bill for usage from 1,000 to 20,000 gallons, but used 3,000 as an example. Russellville comes in at $65, Adairville $51, Auburn $64, East Logan Water District $34, Lewisburg $45, North Logan Water District $36, and South Logan Water District $32. Outside the county examples were also given. Christian County Water District at 3,000 gallon usage per month generates a $35 bill, Elkton $64, Guthrie $59, Oak Grove $27, Trenton $67, and Ohio County $30.
As to the questions of $3.1 million dollars Yassney and Stafford said was not federally insured, Russellville Mayor Mark Stratton, city clerk Bob Riggs, and the council showed Yassney the funds were and have always been insured properly.
Yassney said the audit shows different and is very confusing to the average citizen.
Mayor Stratton handed Yassney a copy of her daughter’s questions of the city she submitted at the July 1, 2016, meeting of the city council with answers.
Concerning the question of reinvesting in the water-sewer system, the mayor said, “The City of Russellville is ‘reinvesting’ back into the water-sewer systems. Before any small or major projects are started, funds have to be available to start and complete these projects. The city has paid down or paid off debt in the last five years. As a result of this, the city is financially able to institute projects without borrowing money and sinking the city back into major debt. The 2017 budget contains over $800,000 for projects and improvements.”
The request of the forming of a Citizens Advisory Board for Public Utilities was met with the mayor saying that it has always been the responsibility of the elected city council members to monitor the service rates and tax rates, and adjust accordingly.
“The city has not raised water-sewer rates since 2007,” said Stratton. The city has weathered the financial storm and it continually strives to improve the financial position of the water-sewer fund, as well as the rest of the city.”
Yassney thanked the mayor and council for their time.
To contact Chris Cooper, email [email protected] or call 270-726-8394.