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Suamico board approves 2.9% sewer rate increase

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

SUAMICO – The Village Board set next year’s sewer utility fees Monday, Dec. 6, which include a 2.9% increase (27 cents) in the usage rate per 1,000 gallons.

The adopted resolution sets the rate at $9.48 per 1,000 gallons for metered, residential customers. Residents saw a 31-cent increase in 2021.

The quarterly fixed charge for debt service for residential sewer customers will remain at $44.34.

Finance Director Jessica Legois said the sewer utility’s annual debt service is slightly more than $600,000 and will be paid off in 2024.

“We do not have any future capital projects planned at this time, and so we are projecting that that fixed debt service fee may go away in 2025,” she said.

Excluding the debt service fee, Legois said total revenues are projected to increase next year by 4%.

“Our projected operating cash is approximately $1.4 million,” she said. “That’s also healthy. We do transfer ($95,200 of) our operating cash annually to a depreciation fund.”

Legois said the sewer utility’s capital budget has an annual increase of $15,000 to have $60,000 to fund lift station pump replacements.

Public Works Director Andy Smits said he requested an additional $15,000 because maintenance and rehabilitation costs for lift stations have increased.

Smits said two lift stations are rehabilitated each year.

NEW Water

The board heard from NEW Water regarding a 1.5% decrease in its budgeted sewer charges to Suamico next year.

NEW Water Executive Director Tom Sigmund said next year’s overall budget for NEW Water, which services 15 municipal customers, is around $45.3 million, an increase of 2.5% from 2021.

He said NEW Water charges the same parameter rates to all municipal customers.

Sigmund said 53% ($24.2 million) of NEW Water’s 2022 budget will be for operations and maintenance, and 47% ($21.1 million) is for capital and dept service.

Sigmund said the budget increase is because of more gallons and pounds coming from customers, increased expenses and additional money being put into the capital reserve.

Sigmund said NEW Water’s future capital improvement needs will exceed current revenue levels.

“We’re, at this point, looking at about 5.5-6.5% annual increases over the next 5-10 years to be able to pay for these projects that are likely to go over 15 years,” he said. “This would be annual increases in order to pay for that.”

Sigmund said NEW Water will adjust the sequence of the projects to have uniform user charge increases.

Fred Krumberger, a member of Suamico’s Public Works and Utility Commission, said the small fee reduction for the village next year, after a decade of double-digit percentage increases, is good, but it’s temporary.

“The reduction is really welcome, but this is not a time for irrational exuberance, because what’s coming in a few years is $175 million in 15 years of capital (projects),” he said. “Just do the quick math, that $11.7 million a year.”

Krumberger said NEW Water’s current debt service of $21 million annually will increase by about 50% with the additional capital projects.

“This is a cruel burden for the families of Suamico and Brown County,” he said. “Ratepayers beware. We’re going to see some substantial increases… Let’s enjoy this year’s fee decrease. It’s a rare occurrence.”

Krumberger said the board and commission need to be asking questions about NEW Water’s capital spending.

“When I start seeing in (NEW Water’s) strategic plan talking about ratepayers, instead of community outreach and all these other fancy things that aren’t related to processing our waste, then I’ll feel a little better about it,” he said.

Village President Sky Van Rossum said what he would like to see with NEW Water’s long-term project plan is updates on it.

“We should request, nicely, that we would like a regular update on this project plan…,” he said. “What we don’t want to see is exactly what Mr. Krumberger said, which is all of sudden to be marching along here and thinking everything is OK, and then we have this huge spike (in costs).”

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