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Water & Sewer Rate Hikes Included In Proposed Budget

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Water & Sewer Rate Hikes Included In Proposed Budget

Cookeville’s Water Quality Control Department proposing water and sewer rate increases in its 2025 budget.

Water Quality Control Director Barry Turner said the increase is due to a spike in chemical costs. He said the price for chemicals was more than $1 million in 2023, a nearly 50 percent increase from 2022.

“I know it’s more money, and I hate to increase the rates at all,” Turner said. “But, it’s going to have to happen because we have to have money to function and run and repair and keep up what we have in the ground now.”

Turner said the base water increase for residents in the corporate limits of Cookeville would increase $1 to $10.10. The usage rate would increase from $3.82 per 1,000 gallons to $5.08.

He said for water and sewer together, the average household pays some $70. He said that number would increase some $10 with the increase. He said those outside of the city limits currently pay $5.73 per 1,000 gallons, which would increase to $7.62. He said the proposed increase would bring in some $2.3 million next year.

“Some of the future expansions may involve a lot more than just what we had laid out in our ten-year plan,” Turner said. “And, of course, everything is costing more.”

He said in speaking with rate consultants, raising the base rate for sewer to $12.15 could bring in another $194,000. Turner said the increase is not as significant as many other cities in the state has proposed. He said experts originally estimated a Tennessee Tech Wet Water project to cost some $6 million. This year, that estimate is some $3 million higher.

Turner said the average household pays some $29 for 5,000 gallons of water each month. He said the proposed increase would bump that to some $35. He said he hopes to present the increase ordinance to Cookeville City Council as soon as June. City Manager James Mills said the city is being aggressive in addressing infrastructure needs.

“He’s proposing to spend a lot of money for infrastructure,” Mills said. “So much so, that he’s drawn his fund balance down to below what we normally do. He’s borrowing money, and to do all this, we’re raising rates significantly. So, I think he’s being as aggressive as we need to be for now.”

The budget includes projected total revenues of some $39 million and total operating expenses of nearly $21 million. He said the total budgeted expenses sits at some $51.6 million. He said this would reduce the reserve fund from $15 million to $7.8 million. He said he does not like to drop the reserve below $10 million, which has been around the average for the past 10 years.

The budget also includes some $29 million for planned capital expenses. Those projects include advanced metering infrastructure, water plant expansion, South Jefferson Water Line replacement, Phifer Mountain Water Booster Station, and several other major projects. Water and sewer sales are estimated to account for some 65 percent of the department’s revenue in the 2025 fiscal year.


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