While local officials cannot stop the state utility sales tax, Rocky Mount City Council members asked the city manager Wednesday to research ways to avoid raising other fees for utilities.
“Our customers are going to see an additional 7 percent burden for electric and natural gas service, so I’d love to see us working toward having no utility fee increases,” Councilman Tom Rogers said. “That’d be doing our part to mitigate something we had nothing to do with.”
While no rate increases were recommended for electric or natural gas services in the $210,445,840 proposed budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year, staff did recommend a $0.75 increase in the monthly per unit storm-water fee.
City Manager Charles Penny said the increase – which would raise an estimated $620,000 for the storm-water fund – was needed to work on capital storm-water projects recommended in studies undertaken in the last few years.
The proposed budget also calls for a 5 percent rate increase for sewer customers in the city and a 25 percent rate increase for customers outside the city.
Budget Manager Ken Hunter gave officials a chart showing the local fee increases would amount to about $1.77 a month for average customers, on top of the average $15.45 a month due for 7 percent state utility sales tax. Councilwoman Lois Watkins requested a chart showing the difference for customers using more electricity and natural gas than the average customer to reflect the rates paid by those residents living in less energy efficient homes, which Penny said staff would need a few days to prepare.
While not included in the chart prepared by Hunter, staff also recommended an irrigation facility fee for the 1,404 irrigation customers. Penny said the city used to have an irrigation fee, but did away with it a few years ago.
If approved, customers with irrigation meters would be charged $9 a month inside the city and $18 a month outside the city, and $1.80 to $3.60 a month for the first five units of water.
Hunter also presented the council with a list of recommended changes to fees and charges in the Parks and Recreation department and police department. Some of the proposed changes apply to facility rental, but other changes were for individual use of amenities.
For example, the changes propose that the amusements at Sunset Park be $5 per person instead of charged per ride for the carousel and train then per child at the Spray Park. Admission for the Imperial Centre for Arts & Sciences also would change from a fee for the children’s museum and a separate fee for the planetarium to $6 per person.
Under the police department, a delinquency charge was added for animal control services while the fees for fingerprinting was increased and split into a city resident fee and a non-city resident fee.
The public hearing about the proposed budget for fiscal year 2014-15 is set for the 7 p.m. meeting June 9 in the City Council chambers at City Hall.