Costs of water and power may go up in Granite Falls

Mar. 04, 2013 @ 09:17 PM

Residents of Granite Falls may be paying more for water and electricity when the town’s 2013-14 budget goes into effect, at least if initial projections hold true.

Town Manager Jerry Church expects a 4 to 5 percent increase in electric rates and a 2 to 3 percent increase in water and sewer rates, he said at a meeting of the town council’s budget committee Monday.

The increase in electricity prices will come straight from the top – a 5 percent increase Church thinks Duke Power will levy on the town.

“Electric, we will get a 5 percent increase from the power company,” he said. “I fully anticipate that.”

That will likely translate to an increase of 4 percent for town residents, Church said.

That’s a hike over which the town has little control – power rates are dictated at the level of the power supplier.

Water and sewer rates are projected to increase too, likely around 2 to 3 percent.

At the preliminary budget meeting Monday, Town Councilman Jim Mackie asked whether there was any way to avoid the increase.

“Well, there’s ways around it,” Church said. “But the way around it is to defer capital expenses.”

In other words, to avoid the increase the town would have to postpone projects in its capital improvement plan, things such as vehicle replacements and water system upgrades. Granite Falls created its first capital improvement plan last year.

The average water and sewer bill in Granite Falls is relatively low: The average user pays $50.55 per month. That’s higher than Lenoir but lower than Shelby, Newton and Lincolnton, for example.

A 3 percent increase for the average user would yield a monthly increase of about $1.50.

Property values – and, as a result, property taxes – are up in Granite Falls, too. This year’s revaluation had properties up in value by an average of 5 percent countywide from the last revaluation, in 2005.

That number may be slightly misleading, because it includes assessments of new construction, including the local McDonald’s and Lubrimetal Corporation’s manufacturing facility.

The town, like others in the region, is expecting flat revenue this fiscal year, with about $58,000 coming from property and sales taxes.

The budget for fiscal 2013-14 will be submitted to the council May 20 and the final version will be approved June 17.