Auditors flagged fund that ran at a deficit, mostly due to debt from wastewater treatment upgrades
The Village of Belgium’s sewer rate will rise by 3% in the second quarter of this year after the Village Board on Monday unanimously approved the increase.
That bumps the quarterly fixed rate of $118.14 to $121.68 for a 5/8-inch meter — the village’s average meter size — and the usage charge of $5.86 per 1,000 gallons to $6.04.
The sewer utility had been running a deficit that Belgium filled using its fund balance — essentially a savings account for emergencies and one-time purchases — which triggered a concern by auditors.
The village hired an engineer to examine the utility, and in January Amy Vaclavik, a project engineer with McMahon and Associates of Neenah, presented two options that would raise the rate by 9% or 14%.
The committee said those increases were too high and told Vaclavik to come back with a 2% model.
In an email to Wastewater Supt. Paul Bley, Vaclavik said a 2% increase would fall $6,000 short of meeting the department’s expenses. She recommended a 3% rate increase, which would also apply to septic hauler dump charges.
Debt totaling $335,000 from wastewater treatment plant upgrades is a major factor in Belgium’s sewer rate.
To offset a bigger increase, the village has pushed back replacing some of its equipment.
At recent Public Utilities Committee meetings, trustees have expressed disdain over raising the rate.
“The No. 1 complaint about living in this village is the water rate,” Josh Borden said.
Village sewer and water charges are combined into one bill.
With the increase, the sewer service budget’s projected annual revenue is $1,516,946. That is $7,000 higher than the projected expenses of $1,509.912.
The board voted, 4-0, to increase the rate. Three of the trustees — Borden, Clem Gottsacker and Rose Sauers — make up the Public Utilities Committee. Pete Anzia also voted in favor of the increase.
The only discussion on the issue included Anzia asking about the average meter size in the village.
Village President Vickie Boehnlein and trustees Gail Kowalkowski and Dale Pfeifer did not attend the meeting.
The Public Utilities Commitee recommended the the board increase the rate on a 2-0 vote last week, with Sauers abstaining because she wanted more information.
The new rate will take effect March 15.