Property owners in the Town of Niagara are likely to face a rate hike for water and sewer use in 2018 to help offset significant treatment cost increases.
Supervisor Lee Wallace outlined a proposed new rate schedule to Town Board members at a work session Dec. 6 and explained that the higher rates were necessary because of shortfalls in the water and sewer budgets.
“The big change” is a new meter utility fee of $15 per quarter that all users will pay no matter how much water they use, Wallace said.
The majority of residential users consume the minimum 8,000 gallons of water or less per quarter. Those users will be charged $10 per quarter for water use and $25 for sewer. Previously, the charge was $10 for water and $20 for sewer.
Users who consume more than 8,000 gallons will be charged an increase of 75 cents per 1,000 gallons on top of their regular bills.
Wallace said the vote on the new rates would take place at the board's annual reorganization meeting Jan. 3.
The increases are necessary because of continued shortfalls in the water and sewer budget that have been brought on by higher rates charged by Niagara County and the City of Niagara Falls for water use and sewer treatment, Wallace explained. The county and the city serve different sections of the town.
Since 2014 when he was elected, Wallace said treatment costs have gone up while the town has tried to keep pace with gradual rate increases. Deficits were covered by surpluses in the town's fund balance.
He said that practice cannot continue.
“We tried to raise the rates slightly…that’s no longer viable,” the supervisor said. “We don’t have the fund balance.”
The increases would generate an estimated $384,000 to balance the water and sewer budget, he said.
He noted that the town's previous supervisor persuaded the Town Board to lower water and sewage rates from $39 a quarter to $15 in 2007.
"We as a board made the mistake as a board to lower rates when we shouldn’t have,” Councilman Marc Carpenter said.
Board member Richard Sirrianni suggested borrowing money from the general fund to reduce the aunt of the rate increase but was told that the board could not legally use those funds.