Public should get ready for the $4 million scare tactic campaign!

The Monroe City Council was wise to delay taking action on water and sewer increases Mayor Jamie Mayo wants for the city, it avoided a complete rejection of the proposal because all indications were pointing to a “No” vote by at least three of the councilman.

The one month delay will give the mayor a month to sell the public on his idea of raising water and sewer rates by 75% over the next two years.

Tuesday’s action gave councilwoman Juanita Woods from District 3 a chance to regroup. She has been loyal to the mayor on most issues, but raising water and sewer rates by 75 percent will be a hard sell in her district which is composed mostly of the city’s extremely poor who will be the most adversely affected by any increases.

Gretchen Ezernak, who at times seems blind to the fact that her district now has a substantial number of African-Americans, also favored waiting. Woods made the motion to delay and it was seconded by Micheal Echols.

Why the delay?

The mayor wants to host a community meeting in each district to try to sell the increases. If it goes as usual, a small army of city officials will show up at each community meeting to overwhelm the public with statistics that will give them the impression that if the council doesn’t support the project that the city will lose its water plant and suffer water problems like other towns surrounding the area.

Accompanying the community meetings will be a directed media campaign to pump up the scare tactic designed to give the public a cup of PR cool aid that it hopes will be swallowed without thinking and sign away its control of its sewerage and water rates forever.

Here’s the issue in short.

The city has been experiencing a decline in sales tax revenues and cannot continue to operate as it has in the past. It is top heavy in administrative costs and can only keep itself balanced by increasing revenues or scaling back on its operating costs.

Mayor Mayo, remembering days when sales tax revenues were flowing freely, has opted to increasing rates and fees. His first attempt was to increase the bus fares. That increase was only a drop in the bucket to what was really needed. Just this year alone the city may be facing as much as $4 million in operating losses. The transportation department increases would only net about $300,000. Not enough.

Cutting top heavy admin costs is still not an option, so the next best thing is sewer and water rates. The city already has an automatic rate increase in place for water and sewer costs tied to the producer price index. That means as the city’s cost for producing water go up, the rates would automatically be adjusted. This year it would be about a 17 cents increase on the average bill.

However, 17 cents won’t solve Mayo’s budget problem. He needs big bucks.

Hence the water and sewer rate scare tactic campaign begins.

The trick is to make the public feel that it will instantly have bad water if the excessively high increase is not improved.

Not only is the mayor asking for a 75 percent increase in water rates, but he is asking for the safeguards that are built into the present plant to be removed.

The first safeguard is to limit the increase to the actual cost of production of water, called the Producer price index. If there is no increase there will be no rate increase. The mayor is switching it to tie future increases to what residents pay for other services such as food, clothing and shelter. That usually increases annually.

The second safeguard is to require all increases to be reviewed and approved by the city council before kicking in. The mayor wants that safeguard removed. He wants the rates to go up automatically every year, without any council review.

That keeps the money flowing into the city, about $4 million more each year.

How much is the city’s deficit expected to be at the end of the fiscal year?

Four million dollars!

Enough said.