Updated Tuesday, May 29
Citing costs to upgrade the town's sewer treatment plant, Mayor John A. Harkins is proposing to raise the annual sewer use fee by 34 percent.
The increase would up the yearly payment for Stratford homeowners from $280 to $375.
Town officials are expected to vote on the fee tonight following a public hearing at that begins at 6:30 p.m.
The body in charge of setting the sewer rate is the Water Pollution Control Authority, a board comprised of all Town Council members.
"I will vow to not vote for the 'fee' increase until I am comfortable that it is completely necessary and can explain that to my constituents or other residents in a[n] easy to understand way," Councilman Craig Budnick (R-7) wrote in the comments section of our original report published below.
Town's Residential Sewer Fee Could Rise 34 Percent
The hike is reportedly needed to help pay for upgrades to the town's sewer treatment plant.
(Published May 11)
Stratford homeowners who pay an annual sewer use fee could soon have to cough up about $100 more.
Mayor John A. Harkins' looks to raise the yearly fee from $280 to $375. A town committee is expected to vote on the 34 percent increase later this month.
Finance Director Susan Collier said the "whole reason" for the hike is to help pay for upgrades which have already been made to Stratford's sewer treatment plant.
"The town in October 2010, we finished a $60 million upgrade to the facility," Collier said. "When it finished the debt started to be due. We took some small loans...the current debt is $43 million."
Sewer use fees, separate from property taxes, go into the water pollution control fund, a self-sustaining account separate from the town's general fund, according to Marc Dillon, the mayor's chief of staff. The fees only pay for costs associated with the expenses of the plant, Dillon said.
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For three years from 2008 to 2010, the annual sewer use fee in Stratford was $250, according to Collier. Then for two years the charge was $280, she said.
A proposed increase last year that would have upped the fee to $315 was during a public hearing then rejected by the Water Pollution Control Authority, a board comprised of all Town Council members whose job it is to approve the sewer use fee.
"In hindsight, had we gradually increased it we would have been in better condition," Collier said. "Previous boards chose not to increase...it is what it is."
"The administration remains committed to finding new ways in which to operate this facility as efficiently as possible," Harkins wrote in his budget proposal. "Much of this effort involves controlling labor and benefit costs, along with nitrogen credits, utility and sludge disposal costs, which together account for the majority of operating expenses."
Collier explained that a $455,000 increase in 'contractual services' is for paying town employees to do work at the plant. Over the previous four years, the line item had not exceeded $90,000.
Harkins concluded, "..at less than $32 per month for the average-sized family, the cost of wastewater treatment is quite reasonable when compared to the sewer use fees of surrounding communities."