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In the case of the Oldham County Sewer District’s horrible financial state, no idea is a bad idea.
Sixteen million in debt plus $2 million coming through the door equals near disaster for this public utility group, which has only 5,700 customers. Expansion, a merger with the city of Crestwood and start-up costs are what created the district’s growing expenses. Raising rates is inevitable to help provide a small percentage of balance to the district’s budget. And now, with such a small customer base and high overhead, the district is faced with tough decisions about where to cut and how.
Oldham County Fiscal Court recommended this week that the district do the following three things in order to obtain the county’s help in getting back on track – raise rates by as much as 25 percent, restructure debt and cut expenses by a whopping $400,000. Essentially, none of these alternatives can happen without the other.
And we would certainly hope board members approve moving forward with this plan, no matter how difficult cutting staff and raising prices will be. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
But there is also another interesting option before district board members for approval — a quasi-merger with another utility, namely La Grange Utilities, which would alleviate day-to-day operational expenses by allowing La Grange to manage OCSD. If approved, only the OCSD board would remain as a legal entity, handling future growth, oversight and construction decisions.
This extremely unpopular option has been discussed quietly between agencies and among local legislators for some time now. It’s unpopular because it means eliminating positions and expertise, and because naturally, territorial attitudes can emerge in such discussion.
Now’s the time to set that aside. We urge board members to consider this option — if not with La Grange Utilities, then with another utility group that may be able to provide the same management and financial relief to OCSD. This seems to be the best alternative, in concert with the other objectives suggested by fiscal court, in bringing the sewer district out of financial ruins.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. And for the sewer district, these are definitely desperate times.
The views expressed in this editorial are endorsed by the five members of The Oldham Era’s editorial board.