City eyes new water, sewer rates for high-end users

Biloxi is looking to raise its water and sewer rates for the first time since 2009, and nearly 90 percent of the city’s customers will not be affected. And those who do get the new rates will still be paying among the lowest on the Gulf Coast

The Biloxi City Council on Tuesday will consider new rates for those using 8,000 gallons or more of city water. High-end users will see their rate increase by 15 percent in the first year of the five-year plan, with 7.5 percent increases each year through 2020.

Only about 11 percent of the city’s 13,500 water customers will see an increase. For those residential and commercial customers who use less than 8,000 gallons of water a month, the city’s water and sewer rates will be unchanged.  To put it simply, if your current monthly bill is $72 or less, you should see no change in your rate.

“No one likes to see any increases,” Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich said, “but we have an state-mandated obligation to make sure that our water and sewer system has the appropriate revenue for maintenance and operations, as well as capital improvements for growth in water production and water pressure. For years, the city has kept its rates artificially low by subsidizing the water department from other tax revenues. We’ll still provide low rates, even with the increase, but this increase for high-end users puts us in a more sound position financially.”

The rates for those customers who use more than 8,000 gallons of water a month will increase by 21 cents for each thousand gallons, from $1.40 a month to $1.61 during the first year of the five-year rate plan. Ensuing years will see the rate increase annually by 12 cents, 13 cents, 14 cents and 15 cents.

Sewer rates for those who use more than 8,000 gallons of water will increase by 43 cents for each thousand gallons, from $2.86 a month during the first year to $3.29 a month. Ensuing years will see the rate increase annually by 25 cents, 26 cents, 29 cents and 30 cents in the final year of the rate plan.

The rate plan is expected to generate $622,000 in its first year to help offset the city’s annual cost of $17.5 million in providing water and sewer service to residents and businesses in Biloxi.

“High-volume users of water are mostly large commercial enterprises in buildings more than two stories high,” Gilich said. “To provide better fire protection, and lower fire insurance rates, for these properties, the Biloxi Fire Department has made significant investments in special fire trucks and equipment in recent years.  Also, the city has made major investments in water production and water towers to assure that water capacity and pressure can serve these high-end users at peak periods.

“All of this requires more capital and operating costs than are necessary for smaller, residential users,” the mayor continued. “So, it is only fair that the high-end users pay a fair share of the additional costs of good service and lower fire insurance premiums. In 2015, these investments improved Biloxi’s fire insurance rating to a Level 3, the lowest in the state, making Biloxi one of only four cities with a Level 3 rating.”

Gilich also pointed out Biloxi’s water rates will still remain among the lowest on the Coast.

“Biloxi is all about quality of life for all residents and visitors and being business friendly,” the mayor declared.  “You can see that when you look at our low property taxes for the city and its school system, our low city garbage rates, and our low fire insurance rates. We’re either the lowest on the Coast, or right next to the lowest.

“I want to continue these same low rates, but at the same time I want to make sure that users are fairly covering the cost of providing the services that people and businesses expect and deserve.”
See a city-by-city water rate comparison
See the proposed water rates
See a city-by-city comparison of tax rates
See a city-by-city comparison of garbage rates
See a city-by-city comparison of fire insurance ratings