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Dayton ups rates amid financial woes

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City of Dayton officials have been hard at work in an effort to tighten the purse strings after City Manager Steve Floyd informed both council and the public that the city is in dire financial shape.

“The City of Dayton is in a tough financial situation. Being a small city without major industry, a big property tax base, or multiple retail sites to collect sales tax from, we have only taken care of the day-to-day operations for years and not planned for unprecedented growth headed our way. We are starting to experience growth that is only going to increase over time,” Floyd said in a statement.

Issues stemming from poor management by previous administrations have resulted in layoffs of 24 non-essential personnel and led to talks with the Dayton Community Development Corporation for assistance.

As the city continues to find ways to keep the town afloat, the conversation has turned to water and sewer rates.

“The City of Dayton provides a lot of services to our residents. It is extremely expensive to operate water wells and the necessary equipment to provide safe drinking water. Include a wastewater treatment plant and lift station pumps, etc. along with staff to operate, and you have a multi-million-dollar operation,” said Floyd

Monday night council took to that very issue, with a public hearing and a proposal on the table that would see a residential rate increase from the current $19.34 for the first 2,000 gallons of water and sewer each at a total of $38.68.

The new rate nearly doubles the current rate at a combined $70 a month base rate, or $35 each.

“Obviously, rate increases aren’t popular decisions; however, we’re way behind on our rates versus the cost of providing sewer and water services. The proposed residential base rate of $35 each on water and sewer for a total of $70 is still below the state average of $71.09 and far below those of our neighbors in Harris County. This rate increase is part of a plan to get the City of Dayton back to a financially stable position,” Floyd said in his presentation to the council.

Add a new 8% rate increase each October for the next eight years, which will bring the base rate for both water and sewer to $129.57 by 2029.

After Floyd’s recommendation to the council, a motion was made by Councilman Don McDaniel and seconded by Councilwoman Sherial Lawson. Councilmen Andy Conner and Alvin Burres joined McDaniel and Lawson in approving the rate increase, while Councilman John Headrick abstained.

After the vote, Floyd asked Headrick why he was abstaining.

Headrick responded by saying, “To me, the rates are just too much at one time.”

Floyd responded by saying the city had reached out to the council and asked for input about what else the city could do.

“I wish I could have an answer to it. I don’t know what to say. I think it's quick and probably a little more discussion maybe and a workshop or something, but other than that, I’m going to reserve,” said Headrick in response.

The increases will also include new commercial and bulk rates for water and sewer.

The new rates officially go into effect at the start of the next billing cycle set for April 26.