SPRING HOPE — Many town water customers saw an increase in the their bills delivered over the weekend, leading to questions about why some statements nearly doubled.
Town Manager Andrew DeIonno said he understands the sticker shock many residents are feeling with their most recent utility bills, but rates haven’t increased hardly at all since 1999.
“Rather, rates were actually decreased for a number of years, and 15 years elapsed until rates returned to 1999 levels,” DeIonno said.
Water bills have also been including the first 3,000 gallons free since at least 1998.
DeIonno called it an oddity.
“This is atypical,” DeIonno said. “For the time frame of 1998-2022 the town was providing users 3,000 gallons of water with the base (bill). And, you’ll note that in spite of the base including 3,000 gallons, the rate for every 1,000 gallons was extremely low.”
The previous rate structure had a deleterious effect on the enterprise fund with the town facing significant water and wastewater system needs and ever escalating operational and maintenance costs, DeIonno said.
“The water and sewer fund, that by law must operate as an enterprise, was projected to be insolvent in fiscal year 2023,” DeIonno said. “In other words, the current rates were absolutely necessary to keep the enterprise fund for water and sewer expenditures from exceeding revenues.”
Consequences of fund insolvency would mean, at the very least, a measure of loss of independence for town operations including the possibility of losing independent utilities, DeIonno said.
“I hope this provides perspective on how rates had to increase to viably sustain the town’s enterprise fund and town utilities,” DeIonno said.