Cash Shortfall: Fayette's utility funds need cash 2016.03.02

Nobody wants to be the bad guy who has to increase taxes or utility rates, but on the other hand, nobody wants to be the neglectful public official, who didn't take care of business—no matter how unpleasant.

Fayette village council members are about to be placed into that "bad guy" role because cash is running short in the water and sewer funds. Something has to be done before there isn't enough money to  pay for operation of the sewer treatment and water distribution systems.

We've heard a suggestion that cuts should be made elsewhere in the village budget to cover shortfalls with utilities. That’s one way to approach the issue, but it seems best to have water and sewer costs paid by the users through fees for the service, not by taking money from other sources.

The best way for water revenue to rise is to sell more water, but water-hungry developments are few and far between. Instead council might have to turn to a new millage, increased enhancement fees, or an increase in rates. The other option, of course, is make cuts elsewhere and transfer funds over.

If other communities provide water more cheaply, perhaps council could look into the operational differences. Is Fayette covering too many of its overall costs through utility revenue and taking away funds that should be used for water and sewer?

Will the “lost” water issue ever be solved? The village fiscal officer estimates the cost of producing that water—if it really is lost—runs between $10,000 and $13,000 which is equal to one of the seven mills the village receives in property tax revenue.

Those are all questions for council to investigate, but in the end, some sort of change must be made to keep the water flowing and to keep the sewage system operating within federal guidelines. And that could lead to a tough, unpopular decision by council members.