Fayette's sewage treatment system short of cash 5.20.09

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Paying for sewage treatment services in Fayette is headed down an unsustainable path as expenses continue to outpace revenue.

Village officials aren’t in agreement about how to address the issue, but council is hoping residents will offer some direction at the May 28 meeting.

Council voted in 1994 to charge a quarterly sewer enhancement fee to build a fund for maintenance and replacement of the sewage system. In recent years the fund has been used to pay off the long-term debt from work done so far in the combined sewer separation project and to cover the cost of unexpected repairs.

The fee brings in more than $50,000 a year, said village administrator Amy Metz, but the village continues to dip into the fund just to pay for operation of the sewage system.

Council heard the first reading Thursday of a proposal to boost sewer fees by nine percent.

“We need a public discussion about this,” said councilor Jerry Gonzales.

At a May 11 meeting of the Finance Committee, council member Paul Shaffer pointed out that council voted to renew two levies at their current levels rather than seek a replacement that would bring the levies up to current property levels.

That decision, Shaffer said, was due to an impending nine percent increase in the water and sewer fees. That increase was never put into effect.

Gonzales suggested placing the issue on the November ballot to give citizens the opportunity to decide about an increase. He believes an increase would be a burden on the public due to high unemployment.

Metz was not in favor of continuing to allow the sewage system to operate at a loss. Gonzales suggested a three percent increase, but Metz countered with nine percent—three percent for each of the last three years.

Village financial officer Lisa Zuver told committee members that council has an obligation to run the village in a fiscally responsible manner.

Metz said the nine percent change would bring an increase from $111.62 a quarter to $118.74 for a typical user.

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