If anyone in Williamsville is unhappy about the prospect of a more than 10 percent hike in water rates, they didn’t express it in public Monday.
A public hearing on the proposal drew several questions but no objections during a hearing before the Village Board. The village plans to raise the village’s water rate from $4.87 per thousand gallons used to $5.37 per thousand gallons.
The village’s water rate was increased in 2009 and 2010 to better keep pace with the leaky and aging water supply system operated by the village. The water system has operated in the black for the past two years after improvements were made to control leakage, trustees said. But prior to that, the village subsidized and “artificially suppressed” its water rate for years with money from its general fund.
That money – $418,000 – is considered by the state to be debt that must be repaid to the village. Village leaders said the water rate must increase by 50 cents per thousand gallons in order to pay that debt back to the village over a five-year period.
“That’s just an unfortunate fact of life,” said Trustee Basil Piazza.
The Village Board recommended the rate increase in response to local and state audits that recommended that the village adopt a repayment plan to recover its $418,000 deficit. This money must be repaid no matter what, trustees said.
The rate increase would translate into about an $8 water bill hike for “minimum users” of 4,000 gallons a year; an increase of $60 a year for an “average household user” of 120,000 a year, such as families; and an increase of $225 for “high-end users” that consume 450,000 gallons a year, like businesses, said Trustee Christopher Duquin.
The board will vote on the water rate increase at its next meeting Jan. 28.
Without a rate increase, Duquin said, the village will have to deal with the entire $418,000 repayment when it finally comes to terms with the Erie County Water Authority regarding a takeover of the village water system. By approving the rate increase, at least some of the debt will be eliminated prior to consolidation, trustees said.
Mayor Brian Kulpa said the village and the Water Authority are getting closer to an agreement, but village leaders continue to wrestle with how a takeover would affect water bills.
The majority of village residents would still likely see a slight reduction in their water rate after the consolidation. But those who use very little water would likely see their water bill more than double because the Water Authority charges a higher minimum usage fee.