Rock Hill residents may pay more for water, sewer. The reason why may be critical

Rock Hill residents could pay more for water and sewer as the city considers making $300 million worth of system upgrades.

The Rock Hill City Council is reviewing a proposed 2017-2018 budget that doesn’t include an increase in the tax rate, but does detail fee increases to complete an estimated $300 million in upgrades to Rock Hill’s water and wastewater plants, which regulate, clean and distribute water throughout York County.

That means Rock Hill residents could face a water rate increase of 9.11 percent ($1.70 for an average residential customer) and sewer rate hike of 2.99 percent ($1.20 for an average customer) in their bills in the coming fiscal year, according to the staff proposal.

Deputy City Manager Jimmy Bagley said the fee increases are needed to significantly boost the capacity and performance of the treatment plants. York County’s population has jumped by nearly 15 percent since 2010, according to U.S. Census data.

Not adapting to change could lead to a downturn in the area’s quality of life, Bagley said.

If you’re not a growing city, you’re a dying city.

Jimmy Bagley, deputy city manager of Rock Hill

“If you’re not a growing city, you’re a dying city,” he said. “You have to support utilities. We have to have the plants to be able to do that. When you have that, you have better quality jobs, better schools, a larger tax base with more people here.”

Rock Hill provides water to about 100,000 customers, including around 30,000 in Fort Mill, Tega Cay, the Catawba Indian Nation and other private water suppliers.

What will the money go to?

City officials say the additional money will help expand the water treatment plant, add wastewater filters to improve service and keep up with demand.

The water treatment plant, which handles 36 million gallons of water per day, would be expanded to maintain 48 million gallons per day. Rock Hill’s water sources come from Lake Wylie and the Catawba River.

There also are major water capital projects scheduled on Rock Hill roads, such as Eden Terrace and Mount Gallant, to install larger water lines. The improvements, which total about $62 million, can help tie services together to strengthen the system and ensure all customers have equal pressure, including outlying areas of the city.

48 million The water plant, which services 36 million gallons of water per day, needs to be expanded to maintain 48 million gallons per day, according to officials.

The wastewater plant also needs vast upgrades, Bagley said. The plant will need to install new filters and add additional capacity. Bagley said about 80 percent of the flow comes during the day, so adding extra storage would allow the plant to capture flow during the day, treat it at night and keep the plant running smoothly.

“The hard part about both of these plants is it’s like heart surgery,” Bagley said. “We have to do that while keeping everything working.”

The wastewater improvements will total about $240 million over 10 years, he said.

Rock Hill will begin levying impact fees on new development to help pay for the improvements starting July 1.

Other rate increases?

There are no proposed electric or stormwater rate increases in the budget, according to city staff.

The proposed property tax rate remains stagnant. The millage rate has remained at 93.5 cents per hundred dollars of property valuation since 2011-2012.

There is a proposed residential sanitation rate increase of 90 cents, or 5 percent, to cover a 7.5 percent increase in tipping fees implemented in June 2015. The tipping fees have been absorbed in the city budget for the past two years.

David Thackham: 803-329-4066, @dthackham

What’s next?

▪  Rock Hill City Council workshop - noon May 16

▪  1st reading of ordinance and public hearing at the Rock Hill City Council meeting - June 12

▪  2nd reading and adoption at the Rock Hill City Council meeting - June 26

▪  The 2017-2018 budget - effective July 1