Council members reverse course on water fees

BALANCING ACT: Water budget expenditures are expected to rise 7.7% next fiscal year. Budget Manager Taylor Floyd said keeping residential rates flat could cause a budget shortfall of roughly $2.5 million. Graphic courtesy of the city of Asheville

A request by Asheville City Council to keep water fees flat for residential customers next fiscal year may be too ambitious to fulfill, according to city budget staffers. 

During Council’s last scheduled work session for the fiscal year 2023-24 budget on April 11, some members appeared to reverse course on a previous push to freeze residential water fees. On March 28, Council had voted unanimously to delay approval of staff’s water fee recommendations, which would have cost a typical household roughly $43 more per year, and asked the staff to explore other options for raising funds.

Taylor Floyd, Asheville’s budget manager, told Council on April 11 that avoiding the residential rate increases would forgo roughly $2.5 million in revenue. He said that money was required to meet the water system’s growing infrastructure and staffing needs.

Water budget expenditures for the next fiscal year are estimated at $43.47 million, a roughly 7.7% increase over the current budget of about $40.35 million. Beyond increases to basic operating expenses, Floyd explained, that higher figure includes about $1.1 million in service enhancements such as hiring additional maintenance, communications and customer service staff and replacing all 63,000 city water meters with updated technology. The budget also accounts for roughly $700,000 in recommended pay increases, including a 5% across-the-board raise and a $2 hourly bump to overtime pay.

Floyd said a cost-of-service study was underway to help determine future water fee recommendations, but results would not be available until September at the earliest. At that time, he continued, Council could choose to change the rate structure based on the study’s findings. (Residential customers currently pay more than do commercial or industrial users, in some cases more than twice as much for the same amount of water.)

“Because we’re bimonthly billing, any rates and fees that are approved are in effect July 1, but we don’t actually make the increases until September,” added David Melton, the city’s water services director. That would give the city time to make residents aware of any changes, he said.  

Council members Antanette Mosley and Maggie Ullman said that they supported city staff’s recommendations to increase residential water fees while waiting on the results of the study. “I’m not comfortable with delaying infrastructure investment,” Ullman said.

Council member Kim Roney, however, pushed back against the increases and said there were options for making up the revenue that the city hadn’t explored. 

“There are multiple levers to pull, whether it’s [the] base rate or closing the gap on the commercial rate,” she said. “I still would like to see an option for some sort of phasing that’s in between the ‘We do nothing’ and ‘We do everything’ for this budget cycle.”

Council is expected to vote on whether to approve the water fee increases during its next meeting on Tuesday, April 25


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

4 thoughts on “Council members reverse course on water fees

  1. Taxpayer

    Something everyone needs to remember in the upcoming 2024 election and when mayor is up for reelection in 2026. For the love of all things holy, can we please get some business people with experience and concern for what their residents want elected? The current mess we have each have their own little agendas and could not care less what Joe Taxpayer wants.

    • Big Al

      Sounds like a great campaign slogan to me.

      The question is, does anyone who fits this description live within the city limits, and how effective would this slogan be to the majority of city residents who seem to be just as self-absorbed and agenda-conscious as the people they have elected so far?

      There is a REASON that Asheville has the near-useless city council that is does: because that is what the peope WANT.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.