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Budget hearings set for water, sewer

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Board defers action on attorney, auditor

By Lou Elliott Jones

    The Cedar Key Water & Sewer District board will hold budget workshops on Sept. 13 and Sept 21 — starting at 5 p.m. both dates — to adopt the millage rate and the budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

    The board, which met at its headquarters on Monday, has tentatively set the millage at the roll-back rate of .9981, up from .8452 mills in 2009. But residents are not likely to see an increase in the amount of tax paid — about $168,000 — as the roll-back rate allows the board to collect the same amount of revenue as it did last year.

    "This brings in the same dollar amount," Board Member Chris Cowart said.

    The board has tentatively set a budget of $894,900 for the coming year with $383,000 in water revenues and $325,000 in sewer revenues, and $825,074 in expenses. The budget, as proposed, will have a $69,826 surplus for unforeseen events.

    GeneralManager Jack Hotaling said revenues increased 15 percent in July although he had estimated they would increase only 6 percent. Last month Hotaling reported revenues were up 6 percent in June.

    Administrative Secretary Ann Richburg said she was expecting another increase in the cost of mailing bills, which is $220 per month. Hotaling told the board that with the new computer system they are using they can email bills.

    In other business the board decided not to issue a Request for Proposals for attorney services this year. During the July board meeting the members approved a plan to seek proposals from attorneys and auditors interested in securing the board's business. The board decided then to put off seeking proposals from auditors as it was getting ready for the annual audit with Davis & Monk and did not want to disturb that process.

    Cowart, who endorsed the idea of getting proposals from auditors and attorneys, said he is not dissatisfied with the board attorney John McPherson. "I am not uncomfortable working with John. It's just a good business practice to do this," he said. "Just because we request proposals doesn't mean we're going to change things."

    It was a sentiment echoed by other board members, Richburg suggested the board delay seeking proposals until next year. The voite to issue the request failed by a 2-3 vote.

    He also acknowledged that with the big Community Redevelopment Authority and U.S. Department of Agriculture  water and sewer system getting ready to start, it may not be a good time to change attorneys.

    The motion to issue the request failed by a 2-3 vote.

    In other business the board approved on first reading the paperwork for the issuance of the bond for the water and sewer project from the USDA Rural Development Agency. McPherson said the bond is basically a loan for the federal government and the board is pledging its net revenues to repayment. At the same time, he told them if there are no net revenues to repay the loan there is no foreclosure. "If we can't pay it, we can't pay it," he said. Then it could be converted, possibly, into a grant.

    The board also adopted an "on call" policy, a new work schedule and a policy providing for suspension for up to eight hours and termination "for someone who swears and uses profanity with a customer," said Hotaling.

    Also, the board agreed to see if the city would donate its old Norstar phone system to use as a backup for the office.  The company is no longer in business and parts are hard to obtain. A new phone system from another provider would cost $5,780 or it could be leased for $125 a month for five years with the total bill, including interest, at $7,500. The old system that the city has in storage is valued at about $400 said Greg Lang, CRA director.