YORK -- York residents may soon have to dig a little deeper into their pockets to pay their utility bills.
In a special meeting last week, the York City Council voted to approve first reading to increase both base water and sewer rates from $5.25 a month to $10.50 a month. Combined water and sewer base rates will now be $21 a month.
Interim City Manager Charles Helms said the increase is needed to make up for money the city is spending to buy water from Rock Hill because of the drought. It also will help provide money to expand the wastewater treatment plant.
Because of low lake levels, York has been buying water from Rock Hill. Helms estimates the city will have spent $325,000 on the water by the time this fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.
Council voted unanimously to approve the increase, but the increase could face opposition from Mark Boley, who begins his term on council July 1.
"You're asking people to conserve water because you're in a drought situation and then at the same time you're going to turn around and raise their water rates," he said. "It's not an act of good faith."
During tough economic times, it's too big an increase, he said.
"You can't ask people to swallow that kind of increase overnight," Boley said. "I can see maybe raising the rates in incremental fashion, but a jump like that simply to raise revenue? Folks don't have it right now."
If the council approves second reading, Helms estimates revenue will increase by $440,000 next year. What isn't spent purchasing water could be used to help fund the wastewater treatment plant expansion.
The plant is nearing capacity and the city is planning to expand it from its current 2 million gallons a day capacity to 4 million gallons a day. Constructions costs will be about $8.5 million and will require the city to get a bond.
"We need to make some sort of adjustment on the water rate in order to help us fund the bond issue," said Councilman Tony Moore, finance committee chair.
The city's current base rate is below average for local municipalities, Moore said.
"Hopefully, over time with the increase in infrastructure, growth will occur and those costs won't be incurred by just the present taxpayers and customers of the city," he said.
The city does have about $1.7 million in savings from land it sold in Lake Wylie, but financially it's probably wiser to leave it where it's at now, said Jackie Mosley, finance director.
"That money has to stay there for us to borrow money," she said, explaining that lenders want to see that you have some savings before they do business.
Council will meet again 6 p.m. July 1 at City Hall.