Village of Cobleskill eyes water, sewer rate hikes

Fewer users, higher expenses and water seeping into the sewer system are behind proposed rate increa

Fewer users, higher expenses and water seeping into the sewer system are behind proposed rate increases for sewer and water users in the village, officials said Wednesday.

If approved by the Village Board, the annual minimum bill for both services would increase a total of 41 percent. That would raise minimum bills from $221.80 a year to $312, according to an analysis prepared by village Clerk-Treasurer Sheila Hay-Gillespie.

Individually, the sewer rate would rise 14.47 percent from $6.43 to $7.36 per 1,000 gallons. Water rates would go up 9.99 percent, from $4.66 to $5.12 per 1,000 gallons. Each customer is charged for a minimum of 5,000 gallons.

A public hearing on the rate changes is scheduled for 7 p.m. May 20. The new rates would take effect June 1.

The services are charged quarterly, so users would see total minimum bills of $62.40 every three months under the plan.

If approved, it would be the second rate hike in nine months.

The village raised rates in August by 14 percent for sewer use and 5 percent for water.

Currently, Cobleskill minimum rates are less than half that of the other four villages in the county that have water and sewer systems, according to Hay-Gillespie.

Only Esperance does not supply water services.

In a letter to board members outlining the problem, Hay-Gillespie noted that the village processed about 274.79 million gallons in its wastewater treatment plant, yet billed for only about 126.25 million gallons.

“The only conclusion to make from this information is that there is a huge amount of storm and groundwater infiltration into our sanitary sewer system,” Hay-Gillespie wrote.

“Over 55 percent of what the village pays to process at the plant as sewage is not sewage at all,” she said.

Wastewater Superintendent Chris Palhs could not be reached Wednesday.

Sewer bills are based on the amount of incoming water measured at household meters. Only about 17 percent of the 165 million gallons of village reservoir water processed is unaccounted for by meters, according to Hay-Gillespie.

There are about 1,080 metered buildings in the village, according to Water Superintendent Jeff Pangman.

The financial crunch is compounded by substantial reductions in water use after the State University of New York at Cobleskill improved the efficiency of its water and steam systems over the past two years, and the ongoing loss of revenue from the former Guilford Mills fabric factory that closed in 2001, she said.

Interest costs next year on borrowing for an estimated $3.8 million project to upgrade the sewer plant, as well as debt service on $1.3 million in water system improvements under MacArthur Avenue are also expected to kick in with the next village budget beginning in January.

Mayor Mike Sellers said the rate increases are needed to keep pace with expenses, including increasing electricity and fuel costs for the water and sewer systems.

“We can either raise them now or we’ll have to raise them later,” Sellers said Wednesday.

The Village Board on Tuesday approved a seven-month, $1.95 million general budget to transition into a new January-December budget cycle. A $318,000 water fund budget and a $481,451 sewer budget were also adopted.

The seven-month village tax rate in June will be about $8.60 per $1,000 of taxable value. While initially lower than the current $12.15 per $1,000 of taxable value for the full 2007-08 year, a new tax bill in January is likely to be higher, officials estimate.

An accurate comparison of the seven-month budget to a 12-month budget is difficult, according to Hay-Gillespie, because some village expenses are paid in June.

Also Tuesday, village officials heard a call from town of Cobleskill Supervisor Roger Cohn for the municipalities to join in creating a new water district east of the village to initially serve a potential business site near Interstate 88 Exit 22 in the town. If they agree, and construction does occur, that could potentially add water customers to the village system, Cohn said.

Although village officials have over the past three years required water customers to become part of the village, users outside the town are typically charged a rate 1.5 times that village property owners pay.

Categories: Schenectady County

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