Sewer budget means 12% rate increase
The water and sewer districts held their combined annual financial meeting, and passed 2013 budgets that include a 12 percent rate increase for sewer customers, but no increases for water customers.
Kathy Szabo, from the audience, raised concerns regarding the sewer rate increase.
“It doesn’t help the business community,” said Szabo. “I don’t understand why sewer [rates are] so high, but water seems to be on track.” Financial Director Amy Land pointed out that the rates have been raised to pay back the money the district owes the town. She said that comparing the two districts’ finances is unfair, as both are very different companies.
“ For a long time, the sewer rates didn’t go up,” said commissioner Brad Marthens. “And the time to pay for it is now.”
Last July, sewer rates went up 20 - 25 percent, depending on customer use, as the commission first grappled with falling usage, loss of grant money and more than $200,000 it owed the town for stepping in to cover its payroll expenses. They are scheduled to continue to rise each year under a five-year plan.
In all, the 2013 budget for sewer will be $1,560,336, a total increase of 7.68 percent over last year. It will include $75,000 toward repaying the town’s general fund, more than double the figure it repaid last year.
“As it stands now, we have our best shot [to pay back the town] by moving forward with the five year plan,” said Sewer Commission Chair Pete McNerney.
The water district’s operating budget will be $717,405 for 2013, a less than 2 percent increase over last year. Monthly user fees will remain the same as 2012; last year, they went up 10 percent. There was little discussion regarding the water budget.
Finance and operations
Following the financial meeting, the Sewer and Water commissions held their regular operations meeting.
Land reported on the financial situation of each. Total water revenues for through May 2012 are at 68 percent of budget, and expenditures at 60 percent of budget, so operating revenue currently exceeds expenditures by $58,856.
Sewer also has excess operating revenue, totaling $89,827 at the end of the month. Revenues were at 71 percent of budget, and expenditures at 65 percent of budget.
“It was a pretty standard month,” said Dave Simmons, Water Superintendent. He said that new accounts helped increase water production by 30 percent. One new account, the Salt Pond Settlement, will result in an additional 400,000 to 500,000 gallons of water used over the year.
He also mentioned that they are working on phasing out old water meters, replacing them with a new technology as the old meters reach the end of battery life. Sewer Superintendent Ray Boucher also reported that the sewer plant is working on replacing roof shingles and exhaust stacks.
The Water Commission agreed to pay a Land Trust fee of $28,275, for a previous Water Company purchase of Plat 9, Lot 7, known as the Linksz property. However, the Land Trust will pay back a $28,275 fee if granted an easement over the property.
Development for a personnel plan for employees is underway. The commissions did not make a decision on a plan, but received a proposal drafted by the employees of the sewer and water districts.
The Sewer Commission agreed to render plat 5, lot 73-1 inactive for sewer service at the owner’s request. The residence burned down in 2010 and there are no plans to rebuild; however, the owner has been billed a monthly charge. The customer will be reimbursed the amount previously billed.
After Szabo made a complaint during public comment regarding a property that is not paying sewer bills, the commission voted to pay the commission’s attorney, Blake Filippi, a sum to file paperwork in court, in hopes of being able to shut off sewer service to the property, which was not named.
The commissioners discussed posting the position seeking a new Sewer Superintendent. Boucher will retire as of October 1.