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Commissioners Approve Budget; Delay MSD Rate Vote

MSD Director Gerald Checco discusses sewer rates before Hamilton County Commissioners.
MSD Director Gerald Checco discusses sewer rates before Hamilton County Commissioners.

Hamilton County Commissioners have approved a general fund budget for next year.  The plan includes a possible utility service tax to increase funds for the 911 communication center.

Commission President Greg Hartmann says the tax would provide relief to townships.

“Townships are choking under the way 911 is funded and it costs over $20 now if a dispatch occurs from 911 in the county," says Hartmann. "That's a problem. That's causing townships, due to budgetary concerns, to advertise different numbers with people answering calls that are not trained to know what's an emergency and what's not."

The county is still waiting for guidance from the state on which utilities would be taxed. Hartmann says it will cost about $1.50 per household each month.

The utility service fee wouldn't take effect until the middle of 2016 at the earliest. It must first be approved by the state tax commissioner and public hearings would be required.

Sewer Rates

Metropolitan Sewer District customers won't see their bills go up next month. But there could be an increase later in 2016.

Commissioners held off approving a proposed 5-and-a-quarter percent rate hike until they receive a report from an affordability task force.

MSD Director Gerald Checco says that task force is looking at how customers are charged.

"It is possible that in six months there will be a complete restructuring of the way people pay for sewers and then we will see what it means for the rates," says Checco.

The county's utility oversight director, Dave Meyer, says commissioners could have delayed the hike to take effect in July instead of January, but he says it will be better to revisit the issue.

"I think they're going to want to take into account whatever the task force brings forward and then the administration will work with the commissioners to develop whatever that recommendation would be," says Meyers.

Commissioners could discuss the rate hike in May or June after they receive the task force's findings. 

Years of rate hikes are blamed on increased costs from a federally mandated consent decree to overhaul the aging sewer system.

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