Faced with a budget deficit, 33 percent water loss and a potential rate increase, the Sylvia-Tennessee City-Pond Utility District Board of Commissioners voted to increase several fees to try to get out of the red. Commissioners Larry Overton and Larry Morgan voted Wednesday to approve a restructuring of the water district’s fees to try to generate more revenue and offset the need for a rate increase. Manager Billy Joe Roberts said the state utility review board has said a 16 percent rate hike might be forced on the utility to generate the revenue needed to get its budget on the positive side. Roberts said he has to send a recommendation to the board by May 25 showing a plan for balancing the district’s budget. With changes being made to some of the district’s expenses and a proposed fee restructuring, Roberts said he hopes the district can avoid a rate hike for its 1,800 customers. “I think we’re headed in the right direction,” Roberts said. Under the changes approved by the commissioners Wednesday, the fee for a returned check increases from $20 to $30; a new $40 service fee will be charged when a customer requests a meter be re-checked and there is nothing wrong with it; the non-refundable connection fee for a homeowner will increase from $50 to $100; the connection fee for a tenant of rental property jumps from $100 to $150; and the “standing fee” paid by owners of rental property for having water turned on when the home is unoccupied increases from $75 to $100. Roberts had originally proposed the connection fees for both owners and renters be set at $185 to cover the cost of the new meters being installed systemwide. The utility borrowed almost $300,000 to switch to new meters that can be read with a handheld device. Roberts said the district has about 600 more meters to switch out to complete the upgrade. Based on previous service averages, Roberts estimated the fee changes will bring around $30,000 in new revenue and the new fees will help offset uncollected debt, of which he said about 96 percent is rental customers who skip out on their water bills. “I’m just trying to get money coming in to get the state off of us,” Roberts told commissioners.