Marion Selectmen raise water rates

May 21, 2019

MARION — A proposal at the last Board of Selectmen meeting to generate additional revenue by opting to not limit summer watering didn’t hold water in the face of environmental regulations, but the Board of Selectmen did opt to increase revenues by changing the water and sewer rates. 

Finance Director Judy Mooney started her presentation at a May 21 meeting by pointing out that the town is not done with Fiscal Year 2019 yet and still has one more month.

“Billing has been really rough this year,” Mooney said, attributing that to equipment and reading difficulties. 

For the current fiscal year she is very concerned on the sewer rate, and has proposed higher increases in that area as opposed to the water rates because of that. 

For the sewer rates, Mooney proposed a three percent increase on the base charge, a four percent increase on the first tier, which would be slightly redefined to include usage up to 1,000 cubic feet of flow, and a six percent on second tier and an eight percent increase on the third tier. Users would cross into the second tier when they used 1,001 cubic feet, and move into the third tier by using 2,001 or more cubic feet. The sewer change would bring in $42,815 projected revenue.

For the town’s water revenue, Mooney estimated 2.7 million in revenue. “So far we haven’t met it we’re getting close too it. We’re about $100,000 left to go with a month to go,” Mooney said. “It’s going to be pretty close. Around this time last year we were not quite so short and we met it. I think we are going to make this. I wanted to just let you know where we are.” 

Under the current billing system the town would have a $178,000 deficit. 

Mooney said the team behind the numbers struggled with the change, but “We were looking at some huge increases if we left sewer the rate as is. If we kept those the same we were at a five percent base increase and in the double digits for tiers.” Without changing the rates the average person would experience a $46 increase. With the change to the tiers that increase would go down to $27. 

Selectman John Waterman asked what are the numbers of people for the first tier, second tier and third tier? 

Mooney said that the more people generally go into higher tiers in the summer months. 

Rebecca Tilden from the Water and Sewer Division said that at least forty percent of the town was in the lower two tiers. “Moving it to the thousands I can’t say with any certainty every reading is different,” she added. 

Waterman asked if there are programs out there to give people relief from high bills. He was concerned that ratepayers are only billed at the end of the quarter, and didn’t want people to be shocked. 

Former Town Administrator Paul Dawson, who worked with Mooney on the issue said that there are no town funds and that he didn’t know of any funds at the state level.

For the water rates, Mooney recommended a 2.5 percent base charge increase, a similar increase on the first tier, a three percent increase on the second tier, and a five percent increase on the third tier. She emphasized that the changes would bring in  $216,000 in surplus. 

Selectmen voted to approve the rates as Mooney presented them.