Village officials say increase is needed to cover utility deficit, anticipated treatment plant upgrades
It was a classic good news/bad news scenario when the Fredonia Village Board considered several financial issues last week.
With little fanfare, trustees unanimously approved the 2017 budget which will require a general tax fund levy of $493,843 — the same as last year.
Debt service will also remain unchanged, at $190,000, and capital projects will hold at $141,042.
According to the village, the tax rate will be $5.22 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, a decrease of .57% from last year.
It is the first time since 2013 that the village tax rate will drop.
Trustees, however, agreed that a 12% boost in the sewer rate is warranted. That increase was recommended by the Utility Committee.
Officials had originally considered a 4% sewer rate hike, but conceded the smaller increase would not adequately address the utility’s anticipated $83,000 operating shortfall.
Driving the push for the higher sewer rate is an anticipated state mandate to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant. That project is expected to cost as much as $5 million
According to the village’s estimates, a household using 12,000 gallons of water a quarter would see its three-month sewer bill increase from $149.52 to $161.24 — an increase of $11.72.
Once the new rate goes into effect, that same household would have an annual sewer bill of $644.96, an increase of $46.88.
For larger households using an average of 18,000 gallons of water a quarter, the three-month sewer bill would rise from $190.32 to $204.86.
Their annualized sewer bill would be $819.44, an increase of $58.16.
The new sewer charge will go into effect starting the second quarter of 2017.
Had the village stayed with the preliminary recommendation of a 4% sewer rate hike, officials said the utility would take in more than $37,000 less in revenue than the 12% boost would generate.
When trying to gauge the board’s opinion on the higher rate increase, Village President Don Dohrwardt asked the rhetorical question, “How does that look? I know, it looks expensive.”
Trustees took a more moderate route on water rates, recommending a 3% increase to take effect in the third quarter of 2017.
That increase must be approved by the state’s Public Service Commission, and can not go into effect until one year after the last rate hike.
The PSC approved a 47% water rate hike in the village last spring, which went into effect July 1.
Without another rate increase, the village noted the water utility would have an operating shortfall of $97,185.
“We don’t know if we will even get the increase. The PSC might say, ‘You just had one last year,’” Dohrwardt said.