Corbin H. Crable
[email protected]

Gardner City Council members on July 12 discussed the possibility of a 6.5 mill increase in the city’s 2011 budget to help offset a shortfall in the Bond and Interest Fund – and Gardner residents could see higher utility bills beginning next year as well.

The city already plans to transfer $100,000 from the General Fund to Bond and Interest to help cover delinquencies on special assessments, according to Assistant City Administrator Melissa Mundt.

The potential mill increase translates into an additional $10 per month – or $220 per year — each single-family household will pay to the city.

Mundt and City Administrator Stewart Fairburn said, however, that while the city anticipates an additional 2-mill increase in 2012, things will start to level off in 2013 with a potential 4-mill decrease.

A reduction in force enacted in early May has helped cushion the shortfall in the city’s General Fund, now at only $500.

Similarly, Water manager Jim Melvin and Public Works Director David Greene told council members that more funds will be needed for water and wastewater next year. The water department is requesting an additional $2.2 million for anticipated maintenance on equipment, Melvin said, and it is likely to need an additional $20,000 each year for the next five years to continue with replacement and maintenance, specifically on older water lines.

Melvin told council members that his department plans to replace old water mains and consider replacement of the old water treatment plant. That would cost $15 million, he added.

Fairburn said that when looking at anticipated maintenance projects for both water and wastewater, Gardner residents could face a 5-percent rate increase for water and an 8-percent increase for wastewater on their utility bills.

Council member Kristy Harrison asked what those two figures mean in terms of how much more residents will pay per month. Fairburn said he did not have the dollar amounts but would get them to the council.

Now that all department managers have made presentations on their respective budgets to the council, the governing body will set aside the next few work sessions for discussion. The city must submit its 2011 budget to the state by the end of next month.

The council will next meet for a special work session on budget discussion at 6 p.m. Monday, July 19, followed by its regular meeting at 7 p.m. If budget talks extend beyond the hour set aside between 6 and 7, the special work session will continue after the regular meeting adjourns. Both meetings will take place at City Hall, 120 E. Main St.

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