While the initiation of a Town Code amendment for its water and sewer rates would have only served to begin the process of setting new rates for the next five years, Leesburg Town Council members said more time is needed before getting to that step.
On Tuesday night, the council held off on initiating the Town Code amendment, instead asking Town Manager Kaj Dentler to bring back more information at a future council work session.
“More information needs to be brought forward to the council before moving forward,” Councilman Josh Thiel said.
Thiel was one of four who voted against initiating the Town Code amendment, joining Vice Mayor Suzanne Fox, Councilman Tom Dunn and Mayor Kelly Burk.
Burk requested a comparison of current rates to what they would change to, as well as a justification for why 18 new full-time employees will need to be hired to support the water and sewer system between fiscal years 2020 and 2024. That was part of Public Resources Management Group’s, a Florida-based firm hired by the town to aid in its rate-setting process, preliminary findings presented to the council at its Monday work session.
While he said he was not against public input, Dunn said he was “not really thrilled on having to initiate a public process when the end result is going to be raising rates.” The initial findings put forward by the consultant estimate that rates will increase around $60/year annually for each of the five years of the next rate structure, which would take effect July 1, 2019. Dunn also said he was perturbed that the consultant did not look into any revenue-generating mechanisms for the water and sewer system, including expanding service into its Joint Land Management Area.
But Councilman Ron Campbell emphasized that all the council’s questions would be answered as the process gets underway. He was the only council member to vote against the motion to move the item to a work session.
“We have a very valuable resource that if we don’t start some level of a process all the questions can’t be answered. They get answered at the end of a process, not a presentation,” he said.
Dentler said the item is expected to come back before the council at its Sept. 10 work session. Even with the delay, hopes are still to have a public hearing before year’s end.