Water, sewer budgets to climb in East Lyme

East Lyme - The town's water and sewer budgets are set to rise for 2014-15, with about an 11 percent increase in sewer expenditures and about a 7 percent rise in water expenditures compared to current budgets.

The 2014-15 sewer budget stands at $1,942,733, while water is at $2,519,915.

Areas of increase in the sewer budget include additional funds for the New London treatment plant, maintenance of pump stations and wet wells and legal fees.

First Selectman Paul Formica, the chairman of the Water and Sewer Commission, said that revenue for the sewer department will come through a combination of rate increases, an anticipated higher usage of sewers and more aggressive maintenance of pipes and infrastructure by a newly hired mechanic. The maintenance is expected to save the town money by fixing leaks, he said, and will offset the mechanic's salary.

The town projects that sewer revenues for 2013-14 will be higher than the budgeted amount in the adopted spending plan for this fiscal year. The 2014-15 revenues will therefore be 7.35 percent more than the projected revenue for this fiscal year, according to a town budget chart.

Sewer usage over the summer, compared to years past, will serve as an indicator of whether usage will be up next year. The town is projecting sewer usage will increase in the future, in anticipation of a rebounding economy and new higher-density developments, said Formica. But he said the town still has aging infrastructure that needs maintenance, such as the Niantic pump station.

The town will budget about $100,000 more next year for New London treatment plant costs that have been rising. The town has been under budgeting that expense for several years now. In 2010-11, the town budgeted $705,812, but the actual cost came in $159,570 more. In 2011-12, the town budgeted $642,556, but the cost was actually $871,040.07. In 2012-13, the town budgeted $680,000, but the bill came in at $918,112.69.

Formica said this occurred in part due to an oversight and in part because the actual bills were coming in at a higher-than-anticipated amount. The town will need to set up a payment schedule to pay back the $732,000 it borrowed from the sewer assessment fund, designated for capital improvement projects, to cover the actual costs.

For the water budget, areas set to increase include maintenance of pump stations and equipment, funds for meter installations and salaries. The water budget will now cover a higher percentage of the public works director's and financial director's salaries.

Water revenues for 2014-15 are budgeted for 5.4 percent more than the projected 2013-14 revenues.

Copies of the water and sewer budgets will be available at the annual town meeting at 7 p.m. today at the East Lyme High School auditorium. The meeting will automatically adjourn to a referendum vote on May 22.

The town will hold a public hearing on any rate increases in the fall that will be effective for the November billing cycle.

k.drelich@theday.com

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