BALLSTON –Residents living in Water District 2, Water District 5, Water District 6 and Water District 6 Extension 1 will see their water rates increase by 5 percent over the existing rates at the beginning of the next billing cycle.
The Ballston Town Board passed a resolution Tuesday authorizing the rate increase by a vote of four to one, with Board Member William Goslin voting against the measure. The new rate for Water District 2 including 24 Morningdale Court will be $4.25 per 1,000 gallons of water, an increase of 20 cents per 1,000 gallons over the current rate.
The new rate for Water District 5, Water District 6 and Water District 6 Extension 1 will be $3.68 per 1,000 gallons of water, an increase of 18 cents per 1,000 gallons over the current rate.
In a public hearing held before Tuesday’s regular board meeting, Town Budget Officer Jeanette Borthwick explained that the costs associated with purchasing water from the Town of Glenville and Saratoga County had risen.
While planning the Town budget for 2017, estimating water usage and planning for the increased costs, Borthwick and the Town Board decided that increasing the water rates would be appropriate.
She noted that growth within the Town contributed to the increase. “Basically, as we have more water connections and more water services we have more mandated measurements that we have to take and provide and that of course comes at a cost of personnel and supplies,” Borthwick said.
Borthwick took the opportunity to answer a few questions that she had received in a letter from a resident living in Water District 2. In the letter the resident asked why the rates had not increased for Water District 3 and Water District 4. Borthwick explained that despite the location of those two districts within the Town, both receive water from and are billed by the Village of Ballston Spa.
The resident also questioned why the rate in Water District 2 is higher and will increase more than the other districts facing a rate increase. Borthwick pointed out that the rate increases are a percentage applied to the base rate and that the percent increase was the same for each district.
She added that the Town Board plans to examine the water rates next year to learn more about the current situation and what will happen with water and the related costs as the Town continues to develop.
Regan Morency and Michelle Brandt, residents of the Stonebridge development, spoke out against the rate increases. The two women are new to the Town and said that the rates were too high and were causing them consider whether they would like to remain in the Town.
“This is the second hike in just a couple years, we are a community of working families,” Morency said. “It can’t keep going. If this is going to be like this every year, then the little bit adds up and adds up and you’re going to drive working families out of this community.”
Brandt said that she had moved to the development from Clifton Park where her family’s water bill was much lower. She explained that when she and her husband received their first water bill it was so high that they thought there was an error or miscalculation.
After checking the math, they found that the bill was correct. “This is the second hike, which is new to us, because our development is only a year old. I think it is already high compared to neighboring areas, so I think it is definitely concerning,” Brandt said.
Board Member Kelly Stewart responded to the comments, noting that the previous year’s rate increase was the first in 12 years. She explained that when the board first looked at the water rates, they found that there would need to be a sizable increase.
Rather than making a sudden increase, Stewart said that the board decided to raise the rates gradually over a few years. She added that the rate probably should have been increased earlier and in smaller increments.
Morency, who moved to Stonebridge from Queensbury, estimated that she paid $25 for 8,000 gallons of water in her old town. “You have to look down the road. If this is what it is like in two years, what are we talking about in 10 years? If we get to the point where my water bill looks like my mortgage bill, then we need to talk,” she said.
Board Member Goslin said that he agreed with the residents and that the Board should not increase the water rates currently.
Later in the meeting Goslin transitioned from questioning the increased water rate to questioning increases that had been included in the Town budget for 2017. The budget was approved at the regular Board meeting in November.
The $7 million budget was passed by a vote of four to one, with Goslin voting against the budget. The budget will be funded by $4.84 million from non-property tax revenues, $192,500 appropriated from the fund balance and $1.97 million levied in taxes.
The $1.97 million tax levy will be for the library, special districts and water in certain districts.
At the time of the budget vote Goslin raised objections to increases in spending and appropriations from the Town’s fund balance for capital expenditures, including an appropriation of $115,000 to repaint a water standpipe located on Route 50.
Goslin brought up his objections to the budget again Tuesday, asking why the Board was using the fund balance to pay for capital expenditures up front instead of using anticipated bonds to spread the expenses out over several years.
Town Supervisor Tim Szczepaniak answered, “I’ll tell you exactly why, Bill. You want to kick the can down the road and charge residents more by implementing a band which is adding an interest rate to their rates, is that the right thing to do? Absolutely not.”
Before voting on the water increase resolution Goslin said, “I’d like to state as I did in public hearing, I’m opposed to this water increase, I do not think it is necessary and I will be voting against it.”
Town Board members Chuck Curtiss, John Antoski, Kelly Stewart and Supervisor Szczepaniak voted in favor of the water rate increase.