By MELINDA WILLIAMS
Pepper’s Ferry Regional Wastewater Treatment Authority will experience a 5.54 percent hike in its 2014-15 fiscal year budget, but its director says jurisdictions served by Pepper’s Ferry will not be funding the increase.
Executive Director Clarke Wallcraft said the upcoming $5.18 million budget is $272,000 higher than the current fiscal year’s $4.9 million budget. He stressed to the board of directors that 100 percent of the increase will be funded through the Authority’s reserves rather than rate increases.
Wallcraft noted that 85 percent of the budget increase is due to higher personnel and utilities costs. The proposal includes a 2 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) for personnel, which is still below the 14-year average annual inflation rate of 2.5 percent.
“This is a very good budget,” Wallcraft told the board of directors. He pointed out a four-member budget committee reviewed the proposal and had him to “go back and see what I could do to reduce some costs.”
The committee consisted of four members of the Authority’s board of directors: Pulaski County representatives Joe Sheffey and Ron Coake and Radford City representatives Robert Asbury and Doyle Barton.
Coake said he approves of the draft budget, but his only concern is that the $750,000 reserve fund will eventually be depleted since revenue is based on wastewater flows into the Fairlawn facility.
According to Wallcraft, the current five-year average flow into the plant shows an 8 percent increase over the prior five-year average.
Using about $250,000 to cover the upcoming budget increase will drop reserves to $500,000, Coake noted. “If we have a dry year, we could lose another $400,000; then we’d be down to $100,000,” he said.
“I just want to go on the record that next year (2015-16 fiscal year) might not be as good” as the proposed budget. “I’m afraid we’re digging a hole and getting deeper in the hole,” said Coake.
Wallcraft said he spoke with a representative from each jurisdiction and most “felt it would bode well for them to have another year” before any rate increase is imposed. “I realize we can’t keep drawing from reserves,” he told the board.
He also pointed out to the board that the draft budget does not include a contingency, for the third year in a row, due to the amount of money in reserve.
The draft budget includes four capital projects totaling almost $2 million; almost $700,000 of which is being carried over from the current year’s budget.
Based on projected flows, the town of Pulaski and Pulaski County Public Service Authority are expected to pay more in the coming fiscal year, while the Authority’s other customers are expected to pay less.
The PSA will see the highest increase (estimated at $13,293 or 2.75 percent) primarily due to new subdivisions added to sewer system and taken off septic tanks, Wallcraft said. Pulaski’s fee is expected to increase just under half a percent or by about $9,279.
Radford City costs are estimated to be reduced .31 percent. Montgomery County PSA should see a drop of about a percent, Pulaski County Sewerage Authority (which serves Fairlawn) a 1.66 percent drop and the town of Dublin a nearly 3 percent decrease.
The board of directors will hold a public hearing on the draft budget at its May 1 noon meeting. Wallcraft said he expects to ask the board to adopt the budget following the meeting.
The current fiscal year ends June 30. The draft budget is for the period from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015.