The Paris News
Paris, TX must raise water rates, fire
employees or go private
By Jeff Parish
The Paris News
Published June 10, 2003
Water and sewer rate increases are necessary to bring
the citys utilities out of the red, City Finance Director Gene Anderson told Paris
City Council members Monday.
Because water usage has never reached predicted levels, the citys utilities have
operated in a deficit for several years, Anderson said. He predicted that by the end of
the current fiscal year, the cumulative operating budget shortfall would reach $1.8
"Its not a matter of making cuts to where it breaks even or almost breaks even
and then raise rates a little bit," Anderson said. "Weve got to work our
way out of the deficit weve been building up."
Councilman Benny Plata, chairman of the water and sewer subcommittee, recommended
eliminating positions and restructuring work shifts at the water and wastewater plants to
reduce operating costs.
"These are recommendations to consider because we are in a deficit," Plata said.
"I know these cuts are not enough to avoid a rate increase, but we do not have to
raise it as much as the study indicated."
A total of 13 positions would be eliminated. At the wastewater treatment plant, two
production operators, two maintenance personnel, two maintenance vacancies and one
production vacancy would be cut. At the water plant, three production operators and one
maintenance vacancy would be cut. Two lift station positions, one employee and one
vacancy, would also be eliminated.
The staff reduction would save about $390,000 in salaries and benefits, Plata said.
Another $53,000 could be saved through equipment cost reductions, he said.
The water and wastewater plants currently have three shifts midnight to 8 a.m., 8
a.m. to 4 p.m. and 4 p.m. to midnight. Plata recommended creating a new system with four
12-hour shifts, plus a few eight-hour "straight day" shifts to provide more
personnel during weekdays.
Plata also recommended transferring lift station operations from water production to sewer
maintenance. Four people should be transferred or hired for the parks department to take
care of grounds maintenance currently being done by utility department employees, as well
as the sports complex and police station when they are completed, he said.
Paris should also seek bids from private companies to run the water and sewer plants,
Plata said. Even if the city did not privatize the plants, the bids would provide a
benchmark for judging operations, he said.
Putting together the information needed for privatization firms would take months and
would heavily tax nearly every city department, City Manager Michael Malone said.
Councilman Jay Guest recommended the city study operations at the water and sewer plants
to see if improvements could be made.
"I dont doubt that were operating well," Guest said. "I just
doubt that were operating at optimum fiscal responsibility."
The subcommittee never adopted any recommendations for the City Council, so the
recommendations were from Plata alone, Malone said. As proposed, the plan would be
detrimental to residents and the water and sewer systems, he said.
"It would be a gross mistake to adopt these recommendations brought forward by Mr.
Plata," Malone said. "I dont think Mr. Plata is qualified to make these
recommendations, either by education or experience."
Malone said a computer glitch kept city staff from presenting a preliminary budget Monday,
but he said he planned to recommend cutting three vacant positions, one in the water
department, one in wastewater and one in lift stations.
Staff cuts would have little effect on the proposed rate increase, the city manager said.
Consultants have said the citys debt load is what drives most of the need for a rate
increase. Dan Almon from Southwest Securities said because of lowered interest rates, the
city could save about $705,000 by refinancing $10.5 million in bonds issued in 1993 and
About $7.44 million is still outstanding on the bonds, Anderson said. Another payment is
due this year out of the citys interest and sinking fund. The rest could be paid
through a proposed $7.19 million bond issue to refund the debt.
The council is scheduled to meet again at 6 p.m. Monday for more discussion about the
water and sewer rates.