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Water resources proposes budget of $24.4 million
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Rockdale Water Resources proposed a $24.4 million budget for 2011 — approximately $2 million less than 2010 — to the Board of Commissioners on Thursday. The BOC will vote on the RWR budget at their Dec. 14 meeting.

On Wednesday, the budget was approved by the Water and Sewer Authority Board in3-1 with a dissenting vote from Chip Hatcher. Members Phyllis Turner and Darryl Thomas were not present.

"We knew it was a stopgap budget," said Elaine Nash, chair of the Water Authority. "There’s not enough to do what we have to do at all."

Money for capital costs, such as repairs for equipment, has been largely left out of the 2011 budget, explained RWR Director Dwight Wicks.

The budget does not include a rate increase for users. It also does not include personnel cuts or furloughs.

Wicks said rather than place budget cuts on the backs of RWR employees, which he explained are needed to run the plants and services, the department was trying to achieve savings through increased productivity.

Revenues for 2011 are projected to be about $2 million less than last year in large part because of the reduction in water use and the number of vacant accounts, said Wicks. There were about 2,000 vacant accounts as of Friday.

Nash pointed out that there were about 7,000 foreclosures over the past 3 years, which has made an impact in the water use of the county.

Although revenues have been falling, some of the drop impact was offset in 2009 by the rate increase.

Some capital funds are available through remaining bonds from 1999 and 2005 and the tail end of the 2005 SPLOST. The SPLOST voted in earlier this year will cover the replacement of pipes but those funds won’t be available until at least a year later.

Wicks said a rate study will be conducted in the first quarter of 2011 to determine how much to adjust rates to industrial users, CCR fees, fire line users, and other users besides residential and commercial users. Residential and commercial rates were increased in 2009.

"I want everybody to pay their fair share," said Wicks.

Wicks said the department would also be auditing fire line users, or groups such as schools and churches that have dedicated water lines for sprinklers and fire protection, to make sure they are paying the required fee.

The BOC will vote on the RWR budget at their Dec. 14 voting session.

The RWR budget and Stormwater budget are enterprise funds, which collect revenue from user fees rather than taxes, and are voted and approved separately from the General County funds.