Manchester officials differ over contingency funds Water, sewer rates left undetermined NORTH -- Manchester * Hampstead * Lineboro

September 22, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

Manchester residents are still waiting to hear how much they will pay for water and sewer service in fiscal 1994, while town officials disagree about how much money must be raised for the town's water and sewer funds.

Mayor Earl A. J. "Tim" Warehime Jr. and Town Manager Terry L. Short have said that unless water rates go up, the town will not collect enough money to cover this year's budget.

Councilman John A. Riley says some increase may be necessary, but he feels uncomfortable setting new water and sewer rates until he knows how much money is left in the water and sewer funds from last year.

It is unlikely that either side will be able to muster the four votes needed to pass an emergency ordinance to set new rates before the next batch of bills goes out next month.

Councilwoman Charlotte Collett is recuperating from surgery and will miss tonight's meeting. Mr. Riley's position as councilman is in question because of an opinion from the state attorney general's office that he cannot hold paid public offices in Manchester and Hampstead simultaneously.

The Manchester Town Council was to have set water and sewer rates for fiscal 1994 at its Sept. 14 meeting.

But Mr. Riley asked that the debate be postponed until final audit figures on the town budget are available.

He said yesterday he had not received those numbers.

"I think the water rates have to go up some," Mr. Riley said.

But he said he did not know how much money is left in the water and sewer contingency funds, so he did not know how much more money should be set aside, if any.

"If we have a reasonable amount in there, I don't want to add to it," he said.

The contingency funds are used for emergencies, such as the repair of leaks or of pumps that malfunction.

But Mr. Warehime said yesterday that enough budget information is available now to allow the council to "get pretty close" in an attempt to estimate how much remains in the contingency funds.

He said it appears the delay in setting rates is politically motivated.

Mr. Short said Monday that water rates brought about $112,000 into the town's water fund last year, and said they should bring in about $115,000 this year.

But the town budget for fiscal 1994 calls for water rates to bring in about $143,000 this year -- about $28,000 more than the current rates are expected to generate.

"This was seen as a bare-bones budget," Mr. Short said. "It's going to place the town in a very difficult position."

Mr. Warehime said yesterday that if the water or sewer budgets are cut, the town might eliminate some items that could save money in the long run, such as an engineer's study of the town's water system.

Mr. Riley said there is confusion over the town's budget.

"Each time I ask for information I get a different number, and that unnerves you. . . . Are any of these numbers right?" he said. "Sometimes you've got three budgets in one night."

Mr. Warehime said there was some confusion because the town changed its budget procedure this year.

Starting this year, he said, the town charged water and sewer workers' salary-related overhead costs -- such as Social Security payments -- to the water and sewer funds, instead of the general fund.

But Mr. Warehime said the town's auditors did not make the same change, and that caused confusion about how much money was left in various funds.

The council also disagrees over the water rate structure the town should use.

Mr. Riley favors the town's current system of block rates, which he says promotes conservation.

Under a block rate structure, people who use less water pay less per gallon than people who use more water.

Councilman Robert Kolodziejski, Mr. Short and Mr. Warehime have supported abandoning the block rate structure in favor of a flat-rate structure.

In a flat-rate structure, everyone pays a set quarterly service charge, plus a flat fee for each 1,000 gallons used.

"In my own mind, it's a fairness thing," Mr. Warehime said yesterday.

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