During the Norlina Town Board’s May 13 budget work session, town Public Works Director Blaine Reese proposed increasing sewer rates in the 2020-21 fiscal year.

He recommended raising sewer rates by 50 cents per 1,000 gallons for customers living inside the town limits and by 75 cents for customers residing outside the town limits. Current rates per thousand gallons are $5.25 for those living inside the town limits and $7.50 for customers outside the town limits.

Reese proposed a sewer rate increase during an April budget work session. However, during a budget session earlier this month, he suggested that if garbage rates were increased to $20 per month and if certain line items were moved to the general fund, no water or sewer rate increases would be needed.

During the May 13 meeting, Reese reported that, according to a previous town audit, Norlina collected around $44,000 less in sewer bills than what it paid for wastewater treatment. He added that both revenues and expenditures were less than anticipated. Reese told the board that the town could face future shortfalls, especially during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, if nothing is done.

The current budget includes $190,000 in anticipated revenue from sewer charges. However, Reese said that at this point in the fiscal year, what the town is billing out is $55,000 short of what was budgeted.

During a previous budget session, Reese suggested that an increase of 50 cents per 1,000 gallons in water rates would be needed in 2020-21. However, he said last week that water is self-sustaining, and did not anticipate the need for an increase.

As Norlina continues its budget discussion for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on July 1, it must take into consideration the need to offset an increase in the town’s annual payment to the Kerr Lake Regional Water System needed to fund updates to the system that Reese estimated at between $10 million and $12 million.

The town also must consider an increase in expenses related to upgrades at the local wastewater treatment plant owned by Warren County. Users include Norlina, Warren County and Warrenton, which operates the plan. Norlina is responsible for paying $520.60 monthly as its share of an additional loan payment for rehab at the WWTP.

Norlina’s proposed budget for 2020-21 allocated $120,000 for regional water and $182,000 for regional sewer.

Town board members requested additional time to reach a consensus on water and sewer rates for the upcoming fiscal year.

The board scheduled its next budget work session for Thursday, May 28, at 5:30 p.m. Members of the general public may view the meeting via Zoom at zoom.us. The meeting ID number is 522 151 5110. The password is 989935.