Tuesday night, the Waterford Utility Commission agreed it didn’t need to raise sewer rates to balance its budget for the current fiscal year, 15 days after trying to get a sewer rate increase finalized by the Waterford Representative Town Meeting.
On October 1st, the Waterford RTM rejected a proposal by the Waterford Utility Commission to increase sewer rates 6.28 percent to balance its budget. If the RTM would have approved the proposal, the rate increase would have been finalized and instituted, but instead RTM members rejected it because lack of information.
However at their meeting Tuesday night, the Utility Commission received its sewer treatment bill from New London – a bill it receives twice a year – and found it to be much less than expected. Utility Commission Chairman Peter Green said the bill in April should be similar, and if so, the commission would only have to spend $1.27 million on sewer treatment instead of its estimated cost of $1.5 million.
“Everyone (Tuesday) night was pleased we could go through another year without a rate increase,” Green said. “We just have to be very careful to of our expenditures.”
Green said from now on, the commission will likely wait until that first bill arrives from New London before asking the RTM for a rate increase to avoid a situation like this in the future. He said the budget for the Utility Commission is made up in the spring for the entire upcoming year, which runs from July 1 to June 30, and all indications at the time pointed to the Utility Commission needing a rate increase.
In the last fiscal year, which ended July 30th, 2012, the Utility Commission ran a $133,864 deficit. The main reason was because sewer treatment costs – a cost dictated by the New London sewer treatment plant and which Waterford has no control over – increased from $1.08 million in the previous year to $1.76 million, Green said.
To compensate, the Utility Commission raised its budgeted total for this current fiscal year for sewer treatment costs to $1.5 million. To hit that estimated expense, the commission agreed to raise the sewer consumption charge 10 percent from $3.50 per 100 cubic feet of water used to $3.85 per 100 cubic feet of water used, while keeping the $180 per EDU charge the same.
The commission asked the RTM to approve that increase on October 1st; arguing it was necessary to avoid a deficit. The RTM rejected that proposal for a variety of reasons, most of all that the Utility Commission gave no “back-up” information to the body ahead of time. At the time, Utility Commission members said they would again ask for the sewer rate increase at the December RTM meeting.
However last week, the commission received its sewer treatment bill from New London, a bill it receives twice a year. The bill was only $693,154.01 including a once-a-year capital fee, and Green said it was likely the treatment bill in April would be roughly the same, so the total for the year would be an estimated $1.27 million, according to numbers provided by the Board of Finance's Utility Commission liaison J.W. "Bill" Sheehan.
The budgeted amount for sewer treatment costs was $1.5 million - $230,000 more than presumably necessary - and the rate increase was going to bring $175,000 in additional revenue, Green said. Therefore, the Utility Commission agreed the rate increase was no longer needed.
Green said the sewer treatment bill was lower because flow into the plant went down and the depreciation fee the sewer treatment plant charges Waterford went down. Waterford pays the New London sewer treatment a depreciation fee in each billing to pay for future repairs and upgrades to the facility.