MIDDLEPORT — Ben Reed was appointed to fill the vacant seat on Middleport Village Council following a brief executive session to begin Monday’s regular council meeting.
Reed, who was among the dozen people in attendance for the meeting, took the oath of office and his seat at the council table following the appointment.
Back to a full council, discussions once again centered around the proposed water rate increase for the village.
Fiscal Officer Sue Baker explained that the need for the proposed 9 percent increase she is recommending is not due to payroll costs, but the inflation of costs for the goods and services used for the water and sewer service.
Since 2014, village residents have not see an inflationary increase to their water bills. A three percent inflationary increase each year is typical to account for the increased cost of doing business.
While the water rates have remained stagnant, expenses for items such as electric (AEP) and testing supplies (MASI Environmental) have increased by 21.75 percent and 19.5 percent, respectively.
In both 2016 and 2017, water and sewer expenses have outpaced revenue. In 2016, the village spent $839,807.24 from water and sewer, while bringing in $796,323.60. In 2017, the expenses were $818,652.69, with revenues of $817,236.03.
Baker has proposed the 9 percent increase which would make up for the inflationary increases not in place over the past few years, while also recommending the reinstatement of the annual increases.
A 9 percent increase, according to figures provided by Baker at the meeting, would raise the water and sewer minimum bill for residents to $51.32 per month, up from $47.08, an increase of $4.24.
Councilman Brian Conde discussed a possible five percent increase, looking at what that increase would do to his monthly bill. Conde stated that with water, sewer, trash and the capital improvement fee his bill was $88.60. A five percent increase would take his monthly bill to $91.75 at a usage of 2,819 gallons.
“We can’t make up what was lost in one swoop,” said Conde.
While Conde acknowledged the hardship that comes with the possible increase, he noted that the cost of doing business goes up and the village must remain fiscally accountable in running the water and sewer system.
Baker explained that once council would take action on a possible increase it would take three months to see the increased revenue.
Before making a decision, Councilwoman Sharon Older requested copies of all village expenses and revenues from Baker, stating she felt there had to be another way to make up the difference without placing the hardship of an increase on the residents and businesses of the village. Councilman Emerson Heighton and Conde stated the information on revenue and expenses provided by Baker was sufficient.
Baker explained that only water and sewer revenues can be used for the water and sewer department and that other monies cannot be used outside of what they are designated for.
Conde asked for clarification on the more than $87,000 in the cemetery endowment and what that money may be used for.
Solicitor Rick Hedges explained that the principal amount of the endowment for the cemetery cannot be spent. The interest off that money, which is a small amount, goes into the cemetery fund for upkeep of the village cemetery.
In other business, council approved a resolution for the placement of a 2 mill levy for police protection on the November ballot. Should the levy be collected in full (typical collection is 80 percent), it would bring in $39,957.54.
Former councilman and current village resident Doug Dixon expressed concern over the village seeking a police levy and water rate increase at the same time, leading people to possibly reject the levy.
Council’s next meeting is set for 7 p.m. on July 23.
Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.