Aiken water bills could soon see an increase

News 12 First at Five / Wednesday, Mar. 12, 2014

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- With spring finally in the air, Robert Smith is doing some yard work and firing up the sprinklers.

"I'm not using the city's water. I'm using my water from my well that I had before we got into the city," says Smith, who lives in Gem Lakes. His home was annexed into the city, along with others, years ago.

But water and sewer bills for city residents, like Smith, could soon be increased by 10% starting in April. The hike, on average, would mean paying an extra dollar to the City of Aiken each week. A $50 bill would become $55.

"I support it. I've experienced very responsible government," he says.

City government is facing a $700,000 shortfall in the water and sewer fund. With all the rain last summer, revenue was down.

"Now, a lot of people think that we have to have an increase because we got too much rain, and they didn't use enough water. That's partially the truth," says Councilman Dick Dewar.

Councilman Dewar says the increase is also needed to combat inflation, fund upgrades, and the replacement of water meters, but Dewar says, even with the 10% hike, the city will still have an approximate $400,000 shortfall.

"I asked the question to council the other night. Are we going to recover that $400,000 during the next budget year based on the increase? And the answer is we hope so," he says.

But Dewar anticipates this same discussion next year, since he expects the city will need to hike water and sewer rates again.

"I'm of the school of though that, if you're giving it to the government, I don't care what you call it. You can call it a tax. You can call it a fee." says Dewar. "If it comes out of the taxpayers money, I'm not going to argue if somebody wants to call it a tax."

Whatever you call it, Smith is happy for now.

"We haven't had a rate hike in a very long time, so I think it's justified," he says.

The ordinance will have its second and final reading on Monday, March 24 at 7 PM.

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