Water, sewer shortfall still causes LJ officials concern

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By Mallory Bilger

LEBANON JUNCTION - Lebanon Junction could be facing some major financial trouble if an estimated $57,593 shortfall in the city’s water and sewer operations and maintenance budget isn’t solved.

The city had the first reading of its water/sewer and general fund budgets in May with the second reading and a vote scheduled for this evening’s meeting at 7 p.m.

During the first reading no one questioned the deficiency but some personnel have since started to take notice.

Mayor James ‘Butch’ Sweat said the council will have to take another look at the budget tonight and try to come up with a plan.

“I talked to a couple of council members and it’s a concern. I’ll just bring it up Monday night. We’ll have to alleviate it,” he said.

City clerk Susan Crady said the city’s water department hasn’t operated profitably for several years. She said the current and some past administrations have relied on inter-account transfers from the city’s occupational tax fund to help cover where the department’s shortfall.

She said the city has only raised its water rates $2.90 since 1986, which couldn’t possibly keep with rising maintenance and material expenses.

Lebanon Junction receives the majority of its water from Bardstown.     Neither Crady nor Sweat said they knew if Bardstown was planning a rate increase this year. Currently the city pays $1.70 per 1,000 gallons and the residents pay $11.50 per 2,000 gallons of water used.

Crady said the departments are supposed to be self-sufficient. Although the inter-account transfers are legal, she said the city runs the risk of one day not having enough money in the occupational tax account to fund the water department’s shortfall.

Sweat said he isn’t in favor of raising water rates but that might be the council’s only choice. He said many costly repairs have been made to the system and the department’s employees are fighting with aging lift stations.

“Repairs are expensive. I’m not in favor of (raising rates) either, but we haven’t raised the rates since 1994. I don’t know if that’s the answer at this time, but somewhere along the line there has to be some adjustments made,” he said.

The water and sewer operation and maintenance budget has $916,443 in appropriations.

“It’s up to the council to address it. So far we’ve done real well,” Sweat said.

The city’s general fund budget, however, is in better shape. The budget includes $711,075 in appropriations and an estimated revenue of $877,950 — leaving the city with a surplus of $71,075 to be carried over to the next fiscal year.

Of the $877,350 in revenue, $624,650 of that is planned to come from the general fund, while the remaining money will come from the city cemetery fund and municipal aid.

The city police department has been allocated $264,765 for salaries, supplies, transportation and operations. The city’s volunteer fire department has been allocated $23,510 for operations and supplies.

For more information, attend this evening’s meeting at city hall on Main Street at 7 p.m.