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Niagara Falls water, sewer rates would go up 3% under board’s proposed budget

NIAGARA FALLS – Water and sewer rates for city residents and businesses would jump by 3 percent next year under the Niagara Falls Water Board’s proposed budget released Thursday.

The $30.1 million preliminary plan for 2015 includes a spending increase of about 4.6 percent. Customers who are billed for the minimum charges, based on their usage, would pay about $13.25 more next year under the proposed rate hike, agency staff said.

Members of the Water Board, a panel of five that has final authority over the agency’s budget, said they hope to trim any rate increase by the time a final budget is adopted. “My expectation is that it will go down,” said Theodore W. Janese III, the board’s chairman.

Last year, the preliminary budget called for a 3.5 percent rate increase, but that dropped to a 2.6 percent hike by the time the final budget was adopted.

The projected spending increases include more than $600,000 in health insurance increases, nearly $200,000 for prescription drug costs and about $220,000 in increased debt payments, said Mary Jean Buddenhagen, financial services director for the agency, which provides city water and sewer services.

The spending plan includes four new positions, but there won’t be a net increase of four on the payroll because a retirement is expected in another job, and officials are not planning to fill that post. One of the new jobs will replace work now done by a person paid out of a local union hall. The plan also calls for an information technology position to move from a union to a management position.

There are several pay hikes listed, including a 7.3 percent rise for Executive Director Paul J. Drof. His salary would rise to about $110,000, from $103,000. Buddenhagen’s salary would rise by 1.5 percent, to $86,276, from $85,000.

The salary for the director of administrative services would go up To $85,000, from $70,000. The increase is based on the experience of the person in the post, Drof said. The job had been filled by Roger D. Lance Jr., who recently left the position. Anthony M. Hahn, who was administrative director of the Niagara County Sewer District, will begin the job Nov. 1.

A public hearing will be scheduled before the board votes on the budget.