Saturday, October 25, 2014

County: ‘We’re out of money’ for Centropolis

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 8/21/2013

CENTROPOLIS — High delinquency tax rates and lack of residential growth are causing the service charges for one sewer district to rise, Larry Walrod said.

Franklin County commissioners voted reluctantly Wednesday morning to approve the monthly service charge increase to $62.50 — up from the current charge of $47.

CENTROPOLIS — High delinquency tax rates and lack of residential growth are causing the service charges for one sewer district to rise, Larry Walrod said.

Franklin County commissioners voted reluctantly Wednesday morning to approve the monthly service charge increase to $62.50 — up from the current charge of $47.

“This was never foreseen to happen this way,” Commissioner Don Stottlemire said before making the motion to approve the increase. “I hate that we have to do this, but we have to keep providing the service.”

The over-projected growth of Centropolis laid out problems from the beginning, Walrod, county planning and building director, said.

“If there isn’t funding available because it was never properly funded initially, there’s shortfalls,” Walrod said. “It was bound that this was going to happen when we didn’t get residential growth projected for the area and a fairly high delinquency rate — close to 10 percent.”

Another issue adding complications was the lack of funds budgeted for maintenance and repairs for the Centropolis sewer district when it was first formed, he said.

“There have been no provisions for maintenance or restructuring of the district, so all of these collectively have had an impact,” Walrod said. “We’re out of money [for Centropolis] and we do not have the capabilities of extending this to the general public under the general fund to support a special district. It’s unfortunate.”

County commissioners voted recently to replace the two grinder pumps for the sewer system, Walrod said, and there wasn’t money in the budget for those improvements.

“We don’t have money in the budget right now to pay for the two pumps we just ordered,” he said. “In order for this district to be sustainable, they have to increase [service charges] or fund it under the general fund, and that’s not going to fly.”

The increase in monthly service charges will only allow for the budget for the Centropolis sewer district to break even, he said, leaving nothing left over for any unforeseen circumstances.

“It’s not going to put in a capital improvement budget,” Walrod said. “It will be a bare bones, break-even budget that’s going to be sufficient for what the very minimum amount of maintenance will be required, but there will be nothing left over for replacements. So if there’s anything like that, we’re going to have to look at something differently.”

The new service fees won’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2014, he said. Unless the district sees a rise in residential growth and a drop in delinquency tax rates, the operational budget will continue to be overdrawn, he said.

“When this budget comes up every year, [the commission] is going to have to take a look and see where we stand with this budget and that’s a must,” Walrod said. “We have to track it very carefully so we can avoid getting into the same situation we’re currently locked in today.”

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