Ware Board of Selectmen
126 Main Street
Ware, MA 01082
Dear Board Members,
This letter is in support of the Water & Sewer Rate increases proposed by Mr. Gilbert St. George-Sorel, Superintendent of the DPW. As we all know, the revenue from the current Water and Sewer rates do not cover their expenses and as such, the DPW runs a combined deficit approaching $300,000 for this fiscal year. Since only 65% of the town is serviced by town water and only 40% is serviced by public sewer, this deficit is covered by the General Fund; in effect, the balance of the town’s citizens are subsidizing the ones who are receiving these public services. By increasing the Water and Sewer rates, this inequity will be corrected as those who take advantage of the town’s services will pay for them. As a group, the Finance Committee recommends the proposed scenario
#1 for each rate increase as this will accomplish two goals: the base minimum will be increased by the lesser amount ($25/qtr. as compared to $30/qtr. in scenario #2 for each) while also charging a higher amount per hundred cubic feet (HCF), thereby ensuring that the heavy users in town will bear the brunt of the increases as we feel is appropriate.
Per Mr. St. George-Sorel, the majority of the households in town use 3,000 gallons of water per year or less; his chart presented on February 27th to the Board reflects usage up to 4.5 million gallons per year. This chart shows the average household paying an additional $26/year or less for water; the heaviest users will be paying up to an additional $30,000/year. The Sewer Rate chart shows that the average household will pay an additional $30/year or less; the heaviest users will each pay up to an additional $40,000/year. Therefore, the heaviest users of sewer and water will pay the most, as it should be. Why should the average household pay any extra for water, for example? Because costs keep increasing every year, yet the base fee has not increased in nearly ten
years and the cost per hundred cubic feet (HCF) has not increased in twenty-five years. Unfortunately, it is not realistic to allow this to continue.
The Finance Committee would also like to go on record as backing Mr. St. George-Sorel’s two other recommendations: a 14% per annum late fee for unpaid Water and Sewer bills and the $50 testing fee for each backflow prevention device. The 14% per annum charge is the same as charged by the Treasurer/Collector for unpaid real estate tax bills and is a typical rate charged in other towns. The $50 testing fee is already permitted by town bylaw per Mr. St. George-Sorel, but no cost was assigned since at the time of enactment there were only six devices of this type in town. The number of devices in town has now grown to 110 and by State regulation must be tested twice a year. As such, the owners of these devices should pay for the time and effort required by the testing.
While a $50 fee may seem nominal, at 110 devices being tested twice yearly, this nominal fee will increase town coffers by $11,000 per year. We congratulate Mr. St. George-Sorel’s initiative in proposing this fee and wholeheartedly support it.
We would also like to make known that we strongly support the same rate for both residential and commercial customers. This one-rate system is the same system as our real estate tax rate and we support it for the same reason we support a one-rate system for real estate taxes, namely the paucity of the number of commercial entities in town. Until we can continue to grow our commercial base in town to a point that can successfully diversify our revenue base, it would be grossly unfair to shift the burden of costs heavily to businesses in town. But by supporting scenario #1 for both water and sewer rate increases, which increase the cost per HCF, this will ensure the aforementioned heavy users of services will pay additional costs proportionately and fairly. And maintaining
a one-rate system continues the perception that Ware is business-friendly.
Finally, we as a Finance Committee do not support the recent decision by the Board of Selectmen to have the various town departments each pay for water use in their budgets. Since the funding of each department is from the General Fund and any funds raised by this billing would return to the General Fund and not to an Enterprise Fund, the result is a zero gain. In fact, the true result of this decision is actually a net loss to the Town, as the current rate structure would not allow for administrative costs, only for the recovery of costs based on actual usage. There are no administrative costs now since departments are not individually billed, but billing would create these unnecessary costs. Additionally, there would be costs for the purchase, installation and
maintenance of metering equipment, which currently do not exist because there is no need. To artificially create a layer of management and its associated costs is not fiscally prudent and should not go forward. The amount of water usage by most departments is so small now that it would take many years to recover the installation costs of the metering equipment. In time of tight budgets, to add an extra cost needlessly is unwise. We recommend that the Board rescind this unnecessary, expensive action. We request that any vote concerning the fiscal direction of the town be open to public comment and that the Finance Committee be notified in advance so that we, as watchdogs of the town’s budget, can also participate. We do appreciate the Board’s concern for the town’s fiscal welfare when this proposal was passed, but we feel it was done in haste and the townspeople and departments should have been given the opportunity to discuss it first.
Denis R. Ouimette,
Secretary Finance Committee