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Wheatfield raises water rates

WHEATFIELD - The Town Board voted Monday to increase the town's minimum water bill by 3.6 percent in the New Year.

The usage charge was increased by 10 cents, to $1.90 per 1,000 gallons. The increase moved the town's minimum quarterly water bill, which includes 7,000 gallons, from $19.25 to $19.95. Water and sewer chief Richard Donner said the sewer rate remains unchanged at 95 cents per 1,000 gallons.

Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe cast the only vote against the rate increase. He said he and town Budget Director Edward D. Mongold have been discussing the possibility of a rate increase for a couple of years. Mongold was for it; Cliffe wasn't.

"I think this last year shows that if it's a normal year, we don't have to raise it," Cliffe said.

But Councilman Larry L. Helwig said the town's outside auditing firm, Drescher & Malecki, dwelt on the water fund's woes during its most recent report.

In 2014 and 2015, when it was rainy during the summer and town residents used less water than normal on their lawns and gardens, the water fund was underwater. "Luckily we had enough reserves to cover it, but we lost money in a wet year," Helwig said.

Mongold said there's still more than $100,000 in the water fund balance, but the cash position eroded during 2014 and 2015. He and Donner said they hope the rate increase will produce an operating surplus for the water fund in 2017.

In 2016, which was very dry until August, Mongold said, "Our sales are up, but whether it's enough to offset our cash deficit, I don't know."

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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