​SUD Approves Rate Increase, Employee Retirement Plan; Seeks Commissioner

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the Nov. 28 meeting of the Board of Commissioners of the Sewanee Utility District of Franklin and Marion Counties, the board approved the 2018 budget, which includes a 1 percent rate increase, and approved making the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System (TCRS) retirement plan available to SUD employees. The board is seeking a district resident to serve as a SUD commissioner. Commissioners received a monthly $50 stipend.
The more than $1.51 million budget prepared by SUD manager Ben Beavers allocates $270,000 to replacing aging cast iron waterlines on South Carolina and Florida avenues. SUD plans to fund the project by drawing on cash reserves rather than taking out a loan. Expenses will exceed projected revenues by $155,649.
“Personally, I’m debt adverse,” Beavers said. “I’d like to think we can sell more water. We can if the Cooley’s Rift project builds out, but we can’t count on that.”
The Operations and Maintenance portion of the budget, $1.02 million, increased by $40,600. Beavers said the greatest portion of the increase was due to rising health care premiums. The state offered a less costly plan, according to Beavers, but with far higher deductibles and out of pocket expenses.
The Operations and Maintenance budget also included a 1.6 percent cost of living raise for SUD employees based on the Consumer Price Index.
Beavers said the rate increase was needed “to keep up with inflation.” The increase applies only to the monthly minimum charge and customer water use. The tap fee, water resource fee, and other fees applicable to new customers will not change. For water service only customers, the average monthly bill increase will be 30 cents. For water and sewer service customers, the average monthly bill increase will be 79 cents.
The state sponsored TCRS retirement plan approved by the board will result in a 42 percent decrease in administrative fees compared to the current employee retirement plan. SUD employees met with representatives from the state and the brokerage firm administering the TCRS plan and “liked their answers,” Beavers said.
“With some luck, the state plan will be implemented by the first of the year,” said SUD Board President Charlie Smith.
SUD is seeking a commissioner to fill the seat of Karen Singer. Singer has served two terms and by law is prohibited from serving another term.
Commissioners must attend monthly meetings lasting one to two hours and complete 12 hours of commissioner training during their first year of service. Commissioners must reside in the district, but need not be SUD customers.
Persons interested in serving as a SUD commissioner should contact Beavers at (931) 598-5611 before Dec. 18.
Turning to an issue brought up at a recent commissioner training session, Smith said inadequate segregation of duties was a recurrent problem for utility service providers.
“It turns up on everyone’s audit,” Smith said. “The recommendation was to involve a third party in the financial process. It doesn’t have to be a CPA. It could be a bookkeeper or any outside person.”
“I think it’s a great idea,” Beavers said. “I included $2,000 in the budget for that purpose. They could audit receipts and the checking account. It wouldn’t take someone long to do that.”
Persons interested in the position should contact Beavers.
Commissioner Randall Henley asked if there was any news on the Midway pressure boosting project.
“There’s been progress in securing an easement,” Beavers said. Once the easement process is completed the project can move forward.
The board meets on Dec. 19.