Even though the city administration asked for a 10 percent increase in water rates, there won't be one for the fiscal 2003 budget, at least for now.
After an hour of discussion, the Meridian City Council voted three to two to approve a budget, without raising the cost of $2.43 per 1,000 gallons.
"The people have decided for me," said Councilman Bobby Smith. "They have told me they don't want an increase in water and I have to do what they tell me."
Smith, along with Ward 3's Barbara Henson and Jesse Palmer of Ward 4 voted to approve the budget without raising the rate, because of concerns from citizens. Dr. George Thomas of Ward 1 and Council President Mary Perry of Ward 2 both said they didn't favor an increase, but felt the city needed the revenue to cover its obligations.
"We still have 60 days to come back and make adjustments if we're not in compliance," said Perry.
City attorney Bill Hammack told the council he believes the council acted irresponsibly in voting as it did.
City clerk Ed Skipper pointed to possible repercussions with Meridian's bond rating, its ability to cover its bonded indebtedness, and maintenance and capital improvements needed to keep the water system in good shape.
Councilman Smith said it's the job of city staff to determine how they spend the money that's available in the budget.