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Water, sewer hikes mulled


Increase would be town's fifth in past six years

By Kaitlin Mayhew -- kmayhew@nvdaily.com

STRASBURG -- The Town Council is debating whether to increase water and sewer fees in 2013.

If fees would go up, it would mark the fifth such raise in six years.

Strasburg currently has the fourth highest access fees for both water and sewer service in the state. The access or connection fee is paid to connect water or wastewater service to a building when a new home or business is built.

Fairfax and Clarke counties as well as the Town of Hamilton in Loudoun County are the only localities in the state with higher water connection fees.

As for wastewater access fees, Clarke County, and the towns of Hamilton and Lovettsville are ahead of Strasburg.

Strasburg is also on the high end for user fees on a regional scale, boasting higher water fees than most towns in the area.

Town Manager Judson Rex said that the reason for that is the water treatment facility upgrade.

"We are one of the only localities that's upgraded our facility recently," he said.

The same goes for the sewer usage fees in Woodstock, which are by far the highest. They have just updated their wastewater treatment plant.

Besides the plant upgrades, Rex said that changes in access and user fees reflect a delicate balance dependent on revenue.

The two fees represent the only two sources of revenue to go toward maintenance and necessary updates to the facilities.

"The more users you have, the bigger your base of customers is. So, the more users you have, the more you can lower the rates," said Rex.

The problem is that Strasburg has not, in recent years, had enough users to justify anything but raising the rates, particularly since the facility renovations.

The budget presentation at Monday night's work session outlined options, including a 7 percent increase in water fees and 3 percent in sewer fees.

However, most council members expressed concern about raising the rates yet again.
"I think we are a little high. I don't think we can raise this," said Councilman Rich Orndorff.

Councilman Justin Ritenour said he was shocked to find that Strasburg's numbers were so high on a state level.

"Strasburg, Virginia is the third or fourth highest in the state, with our income levels and our poverty levels?" he said. "That makes me sick."

Councilman Scott Terndrup said he understands the frustration that residents have had with the high prices.

"I don't think we are being vindictive people. We are just trying to find this balance," he said. "Maybe we should consider a reduction."

Councilmen Don Le Vine and Rick Redmon discussed the fact that if more people moved to town, it would be easier to reduce the fees.

"This is not an easy choice," Le Vine said. "If we had people living in every house we'd be in good shape. But how do we get from where we are to where we want to be?"
The problem there is that encouraging people to build a new home or business in an area with high access fees can prove more difficult.

"You are punishing them for moving here," said Councilman John "Red" Hall Jr. "God help us. Let's lower these rates, not raise them."

By the end of Monday's meeting, the majority of council agreed that the rates should not be increased. However, the official decision will be voted on at a later town council meeting.




12 Comments



Thank you Rich and a special thanks to Red. The last thing most of us need right now is another increase. We already pay both the town of Strasburg and the county taxes! And didn't we all know that this greedy, excessive building (just a few years ago) was going to become yet another increase for us all, especially with the buildings and houses standing empty. And please STOP trying to turn Strasburg into Ole Town anything. Leave it alone: we already have excessive traffic and alarms going off several times a day. We have bigger issues than beautification and flowers on every corner. The excessive planting is poorly planned too, just like those Pear trees on main street. Think long and hard before you ask for more money for anything!

This is a federal and state government made problem. If people want their rates to go down they need to get in touch with both their congressmen and senators and tell them to reign in the EPA and DEQ mandates. Change will only come if citizens stand up and do something instead of complaining to the council about rates. The town council and office hands are tied by unfunded mandates that can and never will be reached. I'm asking the citizens who are opposed to these increases to go to the source and get off their butts and get active. The EPA sent me a letter through Congressman Goodlattes office basically saying to suck it up.
Environmental models are based on inconclusive and even falsely made up data. Their goals are not possible, and unless they are reigned in or unfunded your rates WILL go up. When government does give grants they force towns to jump through hoops. Call congress and even the President and tell them if they want this done then they should GIVE all towns the funds to do what is necessary.

Even if the EPA and DEQ are regional mandates Kim, we still can't let the town off the hook for the unnecessary spending of our local tax dollars. The town streetscape for example, with it's long term obligation and Federal instability for funding is one thing the people of Strasburg could protest and save a lot of money now. Once it starts you will not see the end of revenue cost overruns. (example: The water treatment plant plan changes.) I am for a town update, but not all the money spent on the downtown. The town needs a east side bypass instead of a band aid patch thur Crystal Hill.

I totally agree with Diana. Stop spending money on trying to turn what is fast becoming a ghost town into a flowery "old town" and worry about bringing business here instead of chasing them off. As far as people moving here, raise our taxes again and that will surely bring them. Nofffy'say is correct Kim when he states that our council can be held responsible to some degree, but perhaps now that you are running for office you have had a change of heart, for you certainly did hold them accountable for everything before.

Enough is enough. To be honest, I have not had a raise in 4 years, and lost $5,000 in September of my salary. I can not afford any more raises and I would bet most people would agree. Town council, be honest, what is the delinquency rate of water and sewer bills now? How much are you making from turning off water and turning it back on later? The whole thing smells to high heaven.

I would also disagree on Ole Town comment. Most see the town repres trying to turn us into another Stephens City, which NO ONE wants.

Raising taxes should not happen when most hard working people are watching their income and house values still going down. Just like Red said, lower the rates.Then, tighten the town budget just like Cheryl, myself and the majority of the tax paying residents. If we can do it with less, so can Strasburg. Message to the town council...We WILL vote for folks who use common sense and do not overtax the already stressed. Noffy nailed it with his post as well. We should not count on Fed dollars down the road for a lavish streetscape project that is far from essential. The shakeout of our dollars is well into the correcting phase. The shakeout of the Feds dollars has not even started but will need to happen. Us taxpayers should not be left holding the bag on the streetscape project.

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Town council, gave the permits for all those houses to be built now they are whining because not every house is filled? Come On Strasburg the water bill has already doubled from what was being paid last summer. I am so glad I moved out of that town.

The leadership in town, both elected and contracted, have very little creativity when it comes to finance. The easiest solution is always increase taxes, fees, and rates. The waste in local, state, and federal government gets worse every year. This town is overflowing with wasteful spending and over-staffed departments. If you work in the private sector and actually contribute to society, you are fully aware that many people, including myself, have had to suck it up and face the touch deicisons made by management, such as a 15% paycut, fewer hours, and no more bonuses. The leadership in town needs to make those same tough decisions when it comes to their own personnel. There are many cities and towns across the state that have cut staff and cut pay. There are no free rides anymore, including local government. Come on council and senior staff, get to work and find more creative methods of finding the money to fix your financial woes instead of taking the easy way out and passing it on to the working man.

I hate to take up for the council, but in this case, it is justified. If they cut every single town employee, the water and sewer rate would still increase. The water and sewer department has to be self suffiient, the rate increase is paying for the new construction. Most of the salaries come from the General Fund, which is generated from taxes, is not increasing. According to recent articles, there have been cuts in police and other areas but that does not help the water and sewer rate, only taxes.

So Christina, if the water and sewer department is self sufficient, then why even have a meeting on the rate increase? Just raise the rates if there is no other place to get the money. Or is the council trying to make themselves look like the good guys, giving us this crap that they feel our pain before they sock it to us. They are the ones that got us is this mess, knowing the money had to be spent on the the new water plant construction. Now they want to put us deeper in debt with this streetscape venture. Where is the money to build that comming from? The self sufficient streetscape fund.

Strasburg Town Council: Champagne taste with a beer wallet. Responsible spending is necessary in every aspect of the towns decisions which should go from the water treatment plant to paper clips.

Remember way back when we had to pay $25.00 for a town sticker? We were told it was only until the school was paid off. Now we still pay $25.00 for no sticker.Where is all the money the town collects going? Something is wrong in this town for sure. Property taxes are over taxed, water is like oil. Yet we have no money. I would love to see records of money collected and money spent over the last 20 years. I bet most of it was wasted. God knows Strasburg has little to show. I cant wait to move from this nightmare of a town!



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