FULTON, NY – On Tuesday, the Fulton Common Council unanimously approved the proposed increase in the city’s water, sewer, garbage, and base water rates and also unanimously approved the increase for treatment of leachate and septage hauler disposal rates.
Mayor Ronald Woodward Sr. and Commissioner of Public Works, Charles Smith Jr. presented the proposed rates as well as background information and numerous graphs before opening a public hearing.
Smith reminded the public that the city of Fulton is a nonprofit entity, meaning the rate increases are not proposed with the intent to make money but rather to “adequately support our ability to maintain the infrastructure, expand the system and meet strict but prudent regulatory requirements.”
After listening to public comment with little to no resistance, the council unanimously approved all resolutions to carry out the proposed rate changes.
This marks the first rate change in 27 years for sewer rates which were last increased in 1989.
Likewise, the last rate change for water usage was an increase made in 2003 whereas the last rate change for the base water rate was a decrease made in 2004.
The city garbage rate saw an increase last year (2015) when the Oswego County Legislature raised the tipping fees five dollars at Oswego County land fills, resulting in a rate increase that only covered the increase imposed by the county legislature, Mayor Woodward explained.
Similarly, this year (2016) the county legislature again approved a ten dollar tipping fee increase, resulting in the need to further increase the city garbage rates to cover the difference.
County legislator, Frank Castiglia Jr. addressed the council, understanding that the city is forced to increase rates, but offering a suggested $5 increase as opposed to the $10 increase the city proposed.
“I know garbage rates have got to go up, I know that because the county raised the tipping fees to you. They raise the fees to you, you’ve got to raise it to the public. The thing I request, is that the cost not be as high as what’s proposed,” he said to the council.
Castiglia said with a $5 increase, the city would be able to appropriately cover the costs per quarter as well as put money into the fund based on his calculations.
His concern focused on the senior citizens that do not generate as much garbage and would benefit from a smaller increase.
“I just ask that you take a good long look at it,” Castiglia said.
In a bill analysis available to those in attendance, the rate increases were explained beginning with the water usage rate which will see a 30% increase from $1.81 per 1000 gallon usage to $2.35 per 1000 gallon usage. Additionally, those with a current rate of $3.71 per 1000 gallon will see and increase to $4.12 per 1000 gallon.
The base water rate will increase 21.7% from $23 per 90 day quarter to $28 per 90 day quarter. It is noted that the base water rate will fluxuate based on the resident’s water meter size with the $28 rate based on the meter size of 5/8”.
Sewer usage rates will increase 12% from $3.75 per 1,000 gallon usage to $4.20 per 1,000 gallon usage. Additionally, those with a current sewer rate of $4.69 per 1,000 gallon will see an increase to $5.25 per 1,000 gallon, and those with a current sewer rate of $6.57 per 1,000 gallon will see an increase to $7.39 per 1000 gallon.
Lastly, the garbage rate will see a 23.5% increase from $17 per month per unit to $21 per month per unit, increasing the garbage and refuse rate from $51 per quarter per unit to $63 per quarter per unit.
For a real life comparison, the presentation outlined a bill representation comparing the current rates to the newly approved rates for 20,000 gallons of water used per quarter, the approximate estimated usage for a family of four.
Under the current rates at 20,000 gallons the water usage is $36.20, sewer usage is $75, garbage is $51, and base water is $23 totaling a $185.20 quarterly bill.
In comparison, under the newly approved rates, the water usage is $47, the sewer usage is $84, the garbage is $63 and the base water is $28 totaling a $220 quarterly bill, a nearly $35 increase.
These numbers will not reflect the actual bill, but are used as an estimated example per 20,000 gallons per quarter.
The newly approved rates will be effective on bills issued March 31, 2017 and thereafter.
“It’s a necessary evil if we want to keep all these services. There is another option, we could get rid of them all, we’ve looked at and could sell all three, but the cost would actually be more and we lose all control” said Mayor Woodward.
“And then the public will be at mercy of whoever bought it, there would not be a forum like we had here tonight,” added City Clerk/Chamberlain Daniel O’Brien.
County legislator James Karasek approached the council referring to the rate increases as a “necessary evil.”
“There’s never an easy answer on this. I am very pleased, Frank pointed it out, that the three county legislators that represent 95% of the city of Fulton, we’re from both different parties and all three of us agreed, this needed to be handled differently,” he said, noting that those three legislators voted in opposition to the increase in county tipping fees.
When comparing the new rates to other local municipalities, Fulton still sits at lower rates per 1000 gallon than municipalities such as Oswego, Phoenix, Fair Haven, Geneva, and more.
City officials included information on their proactive approach in attempt to defer any rate changes for many years including such ways as consolidating positions, cross training staff, and reducing staff from 23 field employees in 2004 to 15 field employees in 2016, as well as infrastructure and technological advancements and acquiring tax relief and garnering additional revenue sources.
As part of garnering revenue, the presentation said city officials have been “looking at all avenues to generate the revenue needed to continue operating in a safe, cost efficient manner without putting significant financial weight on the backs of the residents of our community.”
For this reason, the common council increased the rates for the treatment of lachate and septage hauler disposal fees that are delivered to the wastewater treatment facility.The treatment of leachate rate to the city’s wastewater treatment facility will increase from two cents per gallon to two and a half cents per gallon up to 10 million gallons annually.
Similarly, the rates for septage hauler disposal will increase to nine cents per gallon up to 200,000 gallons annually and eight cents per gallon for more than 200,000 gallons annually.
The new leachate and septage hauler disposal rates will take effect beginning January 1, 2017.
“I am very encouraged that you’re going to raise the leachate rate,” said Legislator Castiglia. “I’m glad we’re raising the rates to them.”
One community resident and former councilor, Bob Weston approached the council with words of encouragement.
“Looking at the numbers, we’re pretty much under a lot of the other municipalities. You know, garbage, water, and sewer are services that the city provides that we all need and use and all of us appreciate that. I want to give the DPW all kinds of credit,” he said. “I appreciate all the work that you’ve done, and I appreciate these numbers.”