Future projects are scheduled for 2015 and beyond, including Phase II Water Treatment Plant, Crossroads water line replacement, arsenic-related well modifications and any projects resulting from the Strategic Water Supply Plan.
Utilities Director Ken Komiske said revenues are strong during the drought, but the city is slowly drawing down reserves.
Water rates are not raised based on annual cost of living increases. All water rate increases must be approved by a vote of the people. In August 2010, a water rate increase vote failed, making the city’s last rate change approved in 2006.
Compared to other cities, Norman has low rates, falling well behind rates charged by Midwest City, Moore, Edmond, Enid, Oklahoma City, Lawton, Bartlesville, Ardmore Stillwater, Broken Arrow, Tulsa, Denton, Texas, Lubbock, Texas, and Lawrence, Kan. Ponca City’s rates are slightly below Norman’s rates.
Council members discussed whether to drill new wells or try to recover wells that are currently offline because of arsenic.
Water supply is not the only issue. Only so much raw water can be treated and when usage becomes heavy during hot summer months, the city purchases treated water from Oklahoma City to supplement what Norman can treat.
No new capital projects are slated for the sanitation fund in FY 2014. The budget includes $1.2 million for fleet-related replacement purchases. Landfill tipping fees have increased significantly over FY 2013 and will be $1.8 million in FY 2014. The ending fund balance for sanitation will be $2.1 million, falling short of the targeted $2.6 million.
Norman’s water reclamation rates have not been raised in more than 16 years. In October 2001, an additional $5 fee was added for sewer system maintenance.
A rate increase will be needed by FY 2014 to fund the South Water Reclamation Facility improvements. A vote will be required for that rate increase and should go on the November ballot.
Norman’s sewer rates are lower than any of the comparison cities previously listed for water rates, including Ponca City.
Budget talks will continue May 7 when the city council discusses capital funds. A public budget hearing May 28 will precede the council vote expected on June 11.