Altavista residents can expect to see utility rate increases for water and sewer this December — the fourth year of planned utility rate increases — part of a five-year plan for long-term utility improvements for the town.
At its Tuesday meeting, town council unanimously approved its $16.2 million fiscal year 2022 budget, which contains a 10% rate increase for water and 5% for sewer.
The utility rate increases, which began in fiscal year 2019, are being phased in over five years to produce the revenue needed to cover the debt service for a number of major water and sewer infrastructure projects, estimated to be $750,000 for fiscal year 2022, according to Finance Director Tobie Shelton.
In-town customers will see their water rate increase from $2.75 per 1,000 gallons to $3.02 for the same amount of water, and their sewer rate increase from $3.45 per 1,000 gallons of water to $3.63 on Dec. 1.
Aside from water and utility rate increases, the proposed budget contains no changes to tax rates and fees.
About $34,800 is earmarked in the general fund for a performance-based merit pool, with an additional $34,300 in the water and sewer fund. This represents the continuation of a performance-based merit system for employees, one that was introduced in the fiscal year 2020 budget.
Also included in the operating budget is about $53,800 for the Spark Innovation Center, the coworking space slated for the old fire station sitting empty beside town hall.
It will house Altavista on Track, the town’s Main Street program, and its Main Street coordinator, and will provide space to support new and existing businesses with the hope of improving and modernizing community resources. It is anticipated to open this fall.
Amie Owens, assistant town manager, said it was a smooth budget process, and the town is excited for its upcoming big, multiyear projects, such as the innovation center and the renovations slated for the old Vista Theatre on Main Street, which the town officially acquired in April.
The fiscal year 2022 capital improvement plan totals about $7.7 million, the bulk of which is dedicated to the upcoming water and sewer infrastructure improvements. About $4.7 million of the CIP is going to bond proceeds that will be used for the utility projects.
Among the other projects that stand out, she said, is $124,000 to fund a restroom in English Park. There also is $1 million built into the CIP to begin doing studies and developing plans for the old Vista Theatre project.