BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It's been eight years since the last time Biloxi residents had a utility rate increase. But with a $5 million budget shortfall going into the new fiscal year, residents and business owners will soon pay more.
"We're not trying to make money, we're trying to pay off the debt services," Ward one Councilman George Lawrence said.
After a two-year deferment, the city owes the Harrison County Utility Authority more than $5 million. To cover operational costs and maintenance expenses, the city is proposing a 20 cent flat rate increase.
"The question seems to be, how do you structure both residential and commercial surcharges," Ward four Councilman Clark Griffith said.
City leaders are also proposing additional surcharges for sewer expenses. That amount is still in the works, but could range anywhere from $1 to $3 per billing cycle.
"We look at the operational cost on an annual basis, we look at the overhead and maintenance, we look at the debt service and we look at the capital improvements," said David Staehling, Director of Administration. "We add all of that up, look at what our revenue is worth. If there is a shortfall, we make adjustments in the rates to cover the shortfall."
Biloxi city leaders say the rate increases are not to make money, it's to cover costs and keep the city out of debt. They also say that even with the proposed rate adjustments, Biloxi residents and business owners will still pay less in utility expenses than residents in many other South Mississippi cities.
The city council and the administration hope to have a more concrete proposal within the next few days.