BRATTLEBORO -- Users of the town's water and sewer systems will see their rates jump by a combined 4.3 percent next year if the Selectboard adopts the utilities budget that was discussed in an early morning meeting Monday.
The board met for almost two hours, hearing from Public Works Director Stave Barrett and Finance Director john O'Connor about the proposed 2015 sewer and water budgets.
With payments coming due on the town's massive $32 million upgrade to its waste water treatment plant, the average Brattleboro home owner will see his or her annual sewer bill increase to about $645, jumping by about $36 in 2015. The sewer rates are projected to rise to $4.91 per hundred cubic feet, a 28 cent increase
The average home owner will see an annual water bill of about $147, a projected $2.88 increase. Water rates will rise by 4 cents, to $2.25 per hundred cubic feet.
A few years ago the Selectboard began developing a utilities budget that estimated rate increases into the future in an attempt to average out those increases so they did not spike too dramatically year to year.
Selectboard Chairman David Gartenstein said the upcoming debt payments on the waste water treatment plant is forcing the board to increase the annual sewer bills.
Bond payments on the wastewater treatment plant will add almost $919,000 to the $3.36 million 2015 budget.
"The development of the utilities budget is based on a projection that goes out a lot of years," Gartenstein said . "We look essentially to maintain a rolling year end balance surplus that will be sufficient to cover our debt payments on the wastewater treatment facility upgrades. We're going to have to adopt a new ordinance that averages out the increase we're going to need to continue paying for the wastewater treatment plant facility."
The board discussed the proposed 2015 water and wastewater budgets Monday but did not formally adopt the recommended increases.
Interim Town Manager Patrick Moreland said the town has to develop a budget that raises funds for the bond, while establishing a small reserve in case of emergencies and upgrades to the water and sewer infrastructure.
"What we're trying to adjust is the trajectory of rates going out into the future," interim Town Manager Patrick Moreland told the board. "We want to make sure there will be sufficient surplus in order to operate the utilities system and do so with sufficient cash resources to be able to deal with problems as they arise."
For FY 2015 the town hopes to have almost $643,000 in the wastewater rolling year-end surplus, and another $1 million in the water system surplus.
Those amounts fluctuate from year to year, according to projections released Monday that extend into 2020.
The rolling reserve allows the town to maintain a steady increase through the years and avoid steep spikes in water and sewer rates.
Barrett said the town will be saving some money in 2015 thanks to efficiencies in the new wastewater treatment plant, which serves about 3,400 businesses and home owners.
The town should save some money on oil, and on electricity, due to a cogenerating system that creates energy from methane gas produced at the plant.
Barrett also said the plant's new septic receiving station allows the town to take in septic waste from outside of town, and charge for the service, which will also further reduce future rate hikes for the users.
The board is expected to adopt the water and sewer rates at the next Selectboard meeting.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.