GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Gautier may be known as "Nature's Playground", but rising utility rates are making it anything but fun for those who live there.
A new set of rate hikes could make things even harder for residents, many who say they're already hurting from last year's rate increases.
"They're high, it's hard for us to manage and focus," Gautier resident Shamene King said. "I had gotten a water bill for $900 and then they said they adjusted it down to $400, but I'm still struggling to pay that bill."
Gautier Ward 5 Councilman Adam Colledge says the recent hike is the result of a number of factors including an increase in what The Jackson County Utility Authority charges, to operation and maintenance costs, as well as debt service costs.
Those increases are making residents like Monica Brodie choose which bill to pay.
"You can't even focus on the light bill because you have too much invested in the water bill, and I think that's just too much on our people," said Brodie.
Gautier isn't the only city affected by rate increases, in part due to JCUA. Ravin Floyd with the City of Pascagoula says they are facing a 5 percent increase as well, but the city will spare residents higher utility bills by absorbing the cost of the hike.
In previous years, Gautier has been able to absorb the cost of rate increases. However, it wasn't possible for the recent increase due to managing water usage in order to stay below the minimum usage threshold of 3000-gallons per month.
Colledge also says a GUD bond from 2002-03 is set to mature in 2019, which should help alleviate other costs and allow the city to help lower its utility rates.