SOLDIERS GROVE - The Soldiers Grove sewer rate will increase substantially starting on January 1, 2018, following the action of the village board at their meeting on Thursday, Nov. 2.
The board approved increasing the volume fee from $4.24 to $7.80 per 1,000 gallons. That’s an almost 84 percent increase in the rate.
The large sewer rate increase was necessitated by years of small increases that weren’t keeping up with the expenses of running the village’s sewer system. In fact, it was noted at the meeting by village clerk Tammy Kepler, as well as several trustees, that the sewer fund owes the general fund $58,000 for money borrowed to pay past wages for the sewer utility.
In addition to the volume rate, there is also a flat rate paid quarterly for sewer service. The board raised that REU (Residential Equivalency Unit) from $49.20 to $50 quarterly. Some larger non-residential users are charged for more than one REU.
The numbers on the spreadsheet provided to the board spoke for themselves. There are about 1,404 quarterly (REU) unit charges annually at the current rate of $49.20 they raise $69,033 annually.
At the rate of $4.24 per 1,000 gallons, the volume rate 9,357,390 gallons produced $38,552 in revenue annually. That means the annual total revenue of the flat fee REUs and the volume rate would be about $107,586.
Meanwhile, the expenses for the sewer utility in 2018 were $93,775 in operations, as well as an annual loan payment of $32,820 for a previous sewer improvement project and a $15,000 repayment to the general fund on the money borrowed from it. So, the utility’s total expenses are $141,595.
So, if no adjustment to the rates were made, the sewer utility would be about $34,000 short. However if the volume rate was raised to $7.80 per 1,000 gallons, the utility would collect $72,988 in volume fees. The slight bump in the unit fees would result in revenue of $70,200. The combined revenue would be $143,188-enough to cover the projected expenses of $141,595.
“I don’t think we have a choice,” village trustee Vicki Campbell said after the numbers were reviewed.
“I’m like Vicki, we have no choice,” village trustee Shayne Chapman said.
“It’s not like we are not paying for this ourselves,” village president Steve George said.
The board approved the new rates to take effect on January 1, 2018 and show up on bills for the first quarter sometime after March.
In forwarding the increase, Campbell said she did not want to “gouge the residents.”
“There’s just no painless way to do this,” Chapman added.
In making the motion Campbell said she was “sorry for the residents.” Chapman seconded the motion, and it was passed by the board.
“Hopefully, a lot will understand,” George said of village residents’ reaction to the increase.
“Well it’s not like we’re not raising it on ourselves,” village trustee Jerry Miller added.
In the water utility budget, things are much more balanced because of PSC rules that they stay balanced. The water utility was projected to have $109,000 in expenses and $107,000 in revenue.
After considering applying to the PSC for a rate review, the board decided to go ahead at this point with a non-reviewable three percent increase.
In other business, the Soldiers Grove Village Board:
• approved the Driftless Brewery WEDC Development Agreement, as reviewed by the village’s attorney, securing grant funding for which they are applying
• heard a CDC report by Campbell noting that both outstanding loans are current
• received an update on progress from the fire department on being able to bill for calls
• agreed to pay one third of a League of Municipalities Mutual Insurance Worker Comp Insurance grant for $500 to buy safety equipment
• approved a $100 contribution to Legion Auxiliary’s free Thanksgiving Dinner
• reappointed Russell Gilbert and Barb McGlynn to the library board
• approved the preliminary 2018 village budget
• scheduled a closed session, followed by a public hearing on the budget to start at 6 and 6:15 p.m. respectively on Thursday, Dec. 7 before the regular board meeting.