By CRAIG FREILICH
POTSDAM – The village Board of Trustees has voted to change the way water and sewer rates are charged and paid.
Trustees voted to change local laws relating to water and sewer billing that, it is said, will more equitably distribute the costs of fixed and variable expenses in production and distribution of water and of moving and treating sewage.
The vote at Monday’s meeting would revise Local Law 6-2017, Chapter 138 Sewer, and Local Law 7-2017, Chapter 174 Water.
During the hearing before the vote, many people expressed concern that their bills would be growing.
Eleanor Rosenthal of Chestnut Street said there was a time when water, sewer and trash service costs were simply part of the overall budget and were not billed separately. The cost was accounted for in general property taxes.
“I would prefer to see everything in the general tax,” as a way to simplify the process, or at least add the fixed costs to the regular property tax bill and still charge for usage through metering.
Development Authority of the North Country Director of Engineering Carrie Tuttle said some communities were adopting the method of adding fixed costs to the tax bill.
Mayor Ron Tischler and trustees Steve Warr and Nick Sheehan voted in favor of the change; Trustee Eleanor Hopke abstained, saying that since this was her last meeting before leaving her seat to move to Rochester, she would not be involved in the followup. Trustee Ruth Garner was not present.
The method used for billing now, based on metered water use only, does not properly account for fixed costs such as such as labor and construction debt for treatment plants, which will not vary much with the amount of water through the plant. Right now about 30 percent of water and sewer revenue is designated for fixed costs, while 70 percent goes to variable costs such as the volume of water used, electricity for pumps, and chemicals to treat the water, and that’s upside-down, according to a report commissioned from the Development of the North Country (DANC)
With Monday night’s vote, the village will be moving to a method for billing that would use “dwelling unit equivalents” (DUE) to bill for fixed costs and usage metering for variable costs.
Under the DUE billing method, houses or buildings of similar configuration pay for an average of similar dwellings’ share of a system’s fixed costs.
The dwelling unit equivalent method is better suited for allotting shares of fixed costs to users, according to Tuttle. She said many communities are moving to the mixed DUE and metering method.
Metering, which is how the village calculates water and sewer usage, is better for covering the variable costs based on actual use, she said.