Bellows Falls administrators set 2% increase in water and sewer rates | New
BELLOWS FALLS, Vermont – Administrators for the village of Bellows Falls have discussed village finances and vacant homes with City Manager Scott Pickup and have proposed a 2% increase in water and sewer rates.
At the Tuesday September 14 meeting, Pickup said the Bellows Falls Police and Water Departments are hiring and the finance committee is interviewing this month for a new finance director. He said there was a “huge amount of work” to prepare for the pre-audit and that “the goal was to have [a finance director] on board in October.
James McAuliffe explained that Cynthia Stoddard of the New England Municipal Resource Center was only there two days a week. He had hoped for an updated debt schedule for the water and sewer funds “which is apparently not quite ready.” He agreed that hiring a new CFO was essential and said, “Scott is working hard on this.”
Pickup said one of the reasons Stoddard did not release the draft financial reports for 2020 was that “we wanted to review them with the auditor” before releasing them. He said the delays were due to benefit issues, active retirement and issues with revolving loan fund allocations.
Pickup admitted that there was “no wrongdoing in terms of lack of money … just that things weren’t published properly”.
He explained the history of sewer and water bonds and the confusion over some of the bonds they were paying that had negative interest. By refinancing the loan, he annualized and leveled the payments and removed a 2% administration fee. The new schedule would add an additional $ 133,000 per year until 2048.
Pickup explained that the debt benchmarking allowed the village to “look at where we are, relative to our peer group, which is part of what the bond bank is doing for us.” He added: “We have work to do. “
Pickup said it was helpful to make sure that “we don’t stretch too long” and that it shows how the village is investing in infrastructure and capital. He added that the village is meeting its goals and exceeding income targets. The problem, he said, is that it “is being undermined by some of that longer term debt.”
Pickup said: “We want to try to improve our position on the debt that we have already assumed… to maintain the system and continue to provide water and sewer services at a reasonable rate.” He recommended a 2% tariff increase for water and sewage.
Stefan Golec asked when the request would take effect. Pickup has said it will start in the next billing cycle on October 1.
Stefan Golec commented that Pickup’s presentation was articulate. He proposed to accept the Director’s recommendation regarding the 2% tariff increase for water and sewerage.
Village President Deborah Wright agreed, “Every effort is made to clean up our funds. “
Council unanimously adopted the motion.
Later in the meeting, Wade Masure invited the community to the documentary “Called To Duty”, The Star Hotel Fire Story on Thursday, September 23 at the Bellows Falls Opera House. This December marks the 40th anniversary of the fire that claimed the lives of Bellows Falls firefighters, Terry Brown and Dana Fuller.
Masure said families of those involved and firefighters are invited to attend a private screening at 5 p.m. The public is invited to attend at 7:30 pm This is a fundraiser for Brown-Fuller Memorial Park in the plaza in Bellows Falls and admission is by donation.
The village administrators meet the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Lower Opera House in Bellows Falls.