Council Okays Water Hike

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Last week the Meridian City Council passed the administration's $26 million budget four to one, but said no to an increase in water rates by a vote of two to three. Monday the council reversed itself.

"A $2 million increase in the general fund budget for Meridian in my opinion is too much of an increase in the general fund," said Dr. George Thomas, councilman of Ward 1. "A few dollars on my water bill I can live with."

"Bad as I hate to, I can live with an increase of water funds," said Ward 3 Councilwoman, Barbara Henson. "If we did one or the other, I don't have any problem, so we don't put two things on the people at one time."

Thomas suggested approving an eight percent increase in water rates, cutting the budget $600,000 and dropping millage by two mills. The suggestion was approved.

Council president Mary Perry said figuring out where to cut is the next step.

"Now they're going to have to go back and look at those new personnel they wanted and some equipment that they wanted and they're going to start working in cutting back," said Perry.

Mayor John Robert Smith said that capital investments originally requested by the council such as a street sweeper, new police cars, a larger bucket truck and others are likely gone.

"Today they have reversed it and many of those things will have to come out," said Smith.

Smith said it could also mean a reduction in street repairs and overlays.

"The council can cut police cars instead of paving money if that's their choice," said the mayor.

The council also overrode the mayor's veto of the 2.5 percent employee pay raise, which called for installing 2 percent and merit increases instead. It approved the 2 .5 percent across the board raise at a cost of $600,000.