Cape budget increases worker pay, water and sewer rates

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cape Girardeau city employees can look forward to a 2 percent raise, which may seem meager but follows a year when they got only 1 percent and two years before that when they got nothing.

City residents, meanwhile, can look forward to increases in sewer, water and transfer station rates -- and a possible increase in their trash bill if fuel costs continue to climb.

Those are some of the provisions of Cape Girardeau's proposed fiscal budget, which will be considered Monday night by the Cape Girardeau City Council. The council will hold a public hearing and then vote on the first reading of an ordinance that adopts the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

"The most important thing is we continue to run a budget that balanced and has emergency funds that we consider adequate," city manager Scott Meyer said. "We are meeting the needs of the citizens to the degree that the budget allows us to."

The city's operating budget of $47.17 million is a total increase of $867,574, or 1.87 percent more than last year. The increase, according to a copy of the budget prepared by finance director John Richbourg, is attributed to increases in personnel costs and operating expenses and a decrease in debt service costs.

Mayor Harry Rediger said he was pleased city workers will receive 2 percent raises, despite a still-struggling economy. The increase will result in total payroll for all city operations, including benefits, of $22.4 million, which is 47.6 percent of the total proposed operating expenditures.

"We're pretty flat, but under the leadership of the team and particularly Scott Meyer, we've been able to gain some efficiencies, and it's loosened up enough dollars, scrimping and saving."

But the budget will make a dent into the wallets of city residents. The budget proposes substantial increases in sewer, water and transfer station rates that take effect July 1. Fixed sewer charges are proposed to increase from $4.50 to $13.19 per month. Volume-based sewer charges are projected to increase 122 percent and residential and commercial water rates are proposed to increase 5 percent, under the budget. Fees at the city's transfer station are proposed to increase 8.6 percent to $50.25 a ton.

39.57 percent

The increases to the water and sewer rates will cause the average residential utility bill to increase 39.57 percent, or $20.77 to $73.26 a month. The average commercial utility bill will go up by more than 50 percent, from $151.49 to $229.27 per month.

Almost all of the sewer fee increases will be used to fund costs associated with the design and construction of a new city wastewater treatment plant. Voters approved the increases at the ballot box in November.

Rediger had hoped those sewer fee increases wouldn't have to happen until next year's budget, since construction isn't slated to begin until 2012, he said.

"It wasn't what I was planning," he said. "But it just made sense that that's the way to do it and will be cost-effective in the long run."

Public works director Tim Gramling said that the plant is 80 to 85 percent designed. About $125,000 from Isle of Capri's purchase of city land for its casino was set aside for that, but the cost of design will total nearly $2.5 million.

"If you raise the rates now, you don't have to do a bond issue to pay off a smaller amount," Gramling said. "That would cost you more money in the long run."

The budget also proposes adding a fuel surcharge for the city's solid waste service to be implemented July 1. City officials said it takes the guess work out of planning for how much they spend for fuel. The plan calls for applying the charge only when fuel costs spike. Currently, in Cape Girardeau gas prices hover around $3.50 a gallon.

The amount charged to each residential customer will be about 44 percent of the difference between the previous month's average per-gallon cost of diesel fuel and $2.75, the budget says.

"Basically what we've seen in the past, when prices spike like that, it makes trying to plan a budget a guessing game," Gramling said. "We can adjust it as we go. If it doesn't go up that high, there won't be a surcharge at all."


Pertinent address:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: