LAWRENCEVILLE -- Taxes aren't the only government payments expected to go up in 2013.
Residents can also expect to pay more for water and sewer services and 911 fees, along with the assessments for street lights going up.
"Generally, the impact on the average household will be relatively minor," Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said of the increases, two of which were recently approved by commissioners to balance costs and revenues.
The fee structure for streetlights, which are added to taxpayer bills through a petitioning process, should have been adjusted earlier, Nash noted, since rising energy costs have already caused officials to dip into reserve funds.
The average increase is only about $4.50 for a resident with underground poles, $5.38 for overhead poles, and simply match the actual costs incurred.
The 911 fee, which affects more residents, was hit under the county's service delivery settlement with local cities. Nash said some cities considered opening their own Public Safety Answering Point for 911 calls, but the county wanted to continue to be the sole provider, so emergency calls, especially for Fire and Emergency Services, remained smooth.
"To prevent the splitting of 911 communications into multiple centers, we agreed to pay the cost of dispatch for cities with their own police departments and to provide updated equipment to them as well," Nash said. "This increased 911 costs by $3 million a year and created a gap between revenues and expenditures. Our only viable option was to increase 911 fees sufficiently to close this gap."
In November, commissioners approved a two-step increase, beginning in January, which will take the county to the maximum fees allowed by the state in 2015.
Years ago, commissioners set a schedule to increase water and sewer fees, which includes a jump in January.
The rates "are intended to cover the impact of annual cost increases for basic components, such as energy and chemicals, of providing water and sewer services," Nash said. The rates can be found at www.gwinnetth2o.com.
Overall, the fees do not indicate an increased reliance on user fees, since these have been in place for years, Nash said.
"We do continue to look for services where a user fee may be appropriate as a funding source," she added. "The rate increases described above will impact Gwinnett residents and businesses based on the services they receive and their volume of usage. For example, the 911 fee will be applied to each phone line used by a resident or business. Thus, those paying the fees have some ability to control what they pay by controlling their usage of the service."