Belgium Village Board will meet Monday to discuss increase that would help cover utility shortfalls
The Belgium Public Utilities Committee on Monday recommended, albeit reluctantly, that the village raise the sewer rate by 3% to cover utility losses mostly from paying off debt.
After auditors raised a concern that the village was covering shortfalls in the utility with its fund balance — essentially an entity’s savings account for emergencies and one-time purchases — Belgium hired an engineer to examine the situation.
Last month, Amy Vaclavik, a project engineer with McMahon and Associates of Neenah, presented options that would raise the rate by 9% or 14%.
The committee said those increases were too high and told Vaclavik to come back with a 2% model.
In an email to Wastewater Superintendent Paul Bley, Vaclavik said a 2% increase would fall $6,000 short of meeting the department’s expenses. She recommended a 3% rate increase, which would also apply to septic hauler dump charges.
The committee discussed cutting its equipment replacement fund, called the sinking fund, but Director of Public Works Dan Birenbaum said upgrades would be needed regardless. He said if the village’s backhoe isn’t replaced next year, it would need new tires that could cost about $4,000.
Given Belgium has a higher sewer rate than area communities, raising the sewer rate at all wasn’t a popular option among the three committee members who also serve as trustees on the Village Board. Josh Borden said the water rate is the No. 1 complaint from village residents.
But the village still has $335,000 in debt from wastewater treatment plant improvements.
Committee member Clem Gottsacker made the motion to recommend the 3% rate increase, “as much as I don’t like to do it.”
The motion passed, 2-0. Rose Sauers abstained. After the meeting, she told the committee she wanted more information on the issue.
The 3% increase would bump the village’s quarterly rate of $118.14 to $121.68 and its usage charge of $5.86 per 1,000 gallons to $6.04.
The increase would still leave the utility $1,500 short, but Birenbaum said budget projections could be adjusted to find that money.
The Village Board is slated to discuss the issue at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 13.
If the board approves the rate increase, it would be effective March 15 and appear on residents’ second quarter sewer and water bills.