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INCREASE EXPECTED IN WATER RATES

The Common Council is expected to vote Wednesday on an increase in water rates.

Council President Patrick W. Schrader, D-4th Ward, said a three-year plan calls for increasing the minimum user fee by $10 a year, or $2.50 per quarterly bill, during each of the three years.

The rate-hike plan would be completed at the same time as a four-year series of sewer rate increases the Council passed last year.

Schrader said he favors the water hike because the water fund's surplus isn't big enough.

"A zero increase sounds very nice, but that was done in the past," Schrader said. "You need a little fund balance for those emergencies."

"We've got to start preparing for some future infrastructure work," said Mayor Thomas C. Sullivan.

"I'm not in favor of any increase. Due to the fact that we're running low, I see no alternative," said Alderman Joseph C. Kibler, R-at large.

City Treasurer James W. Ashcraft Jr. projects that the water fund surplus will grow slightly this year.

The surplus stood at $325,474 at the end of 2001.

Ashcraft said revenues are running slightly ahead of spending so far this year, and he projects $37,935 will be added to the fund at the end of 2002.

The sewer rate hikes have had the expected impact on the fund, which had a balance of $84 at the end of 2001.

That was an improvement over the $203,608 deficit it showed 12 months earlier.

Ashcraft said he's projecting an operating surplus of $336,320 for the sewer fund this year.

The Council did not change the rate for usage when it hiked sewer charges last year, choosing to increase the flat fee only.

Schrader said it will probably use the same strategy for the new water rates.

Water and sewer bills are a combination of a minimum usage fee, which is the same for everyone. The Council last raised the water rates in 1999.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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