Fund balance has been making up for difference between revenues and expenditures in utility
The Village of Belgium is considering raising its sewer rate to stop the utility from operating at a deficit.
But the Public Utilities Committee didn’t support an engineer’s idea to bump the rate up by 9% or 14% when it met this month.
“To be honest, I’m not comfortable raising it 9%. I’m not comfortable raising it at all,” committee member Josh Borden, who also is a village trustee, said.
Amy Vaclavik, a project engineer with McMahon and Associates of Neenah, said auditors raised concern in 2015 that the sewer rate wasn’t high enough to cover debt from upgrades of the wastewater treatment plant.
The goal is to implement an updated sewer charge system, which Vaclavik said would require a public hearing and approval by the Village Board.
Sewer rates are based on water usage, which can vary given dry and wet seasons, so Vaclavik said she used 2013 to 2015 usage to calculate her recommendations.
Noting the village’s sewer rate is high compared to its neighbors, the committee said raising the rate would be a difficult sell.
“The No. 1 complaint about living in this village is the water rate,” Borden said.
While the debt isn’t adjustable, the village can tweak its equipment replacement cycle. Public Works Director Dan Birenbaum said he needs to update the information on when equipment was purchased and when it needs to be replaced.
“If we’ve got to push equipment out longer, we’ve got to do it,” Borden said.
“We’ve been doing that for 30 years,” Birenbaum said. “You’d have to take the entire sinking fund away.”
Committee member Clem Gottsacker said if the equipment replacement fund doesn’t have enough money, the village may have to borrow.
Borden said he never likes borrowing because it hurts in the long run.
The committee determined a 2% increase would be more palatable.
Vaclavik said she would develop a plan with a 2% increase. Money left over from operating costs could be earmarked for equipment replacement.