By Alex Bridges
Already facing higher taxes, residents of most Shenandoah County towns can expect to pay more for utilities.
Most of the towns will hold hearings next week on their proposed fiscal 2014 budgets and rates for water and sewer service. Towns plan to hold the line on taxes. Last month the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors approved steep increases in the real estate and personal property tax rates despite some protests. Those higher tax rates apply to town residents and property owners.
Unlike with taxes, town leaders must find ways to pay the increasing costs to provide water and sewer, and to follow tighter environmental regulations handed down by state and federal agencies.
Edinburg will hold its public hearing on the budget and utility rates at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
While Edinburg does not propose an increase in the minimum monthly bill for water and sewer in fiscal year 2014, the town plans to raise the rate by $2, from $4 to $6 for each 1,000 gallons used beyond 3,000 gallons.
Town Manager/Mayor Daniel Harshman said in the monthly newsletter customers outside town limits would see the rate increase to $9.03 for each 1,000 gallons of water and/or sewer used over the minimum. Officials have proposed an increase in the late payment penalty from 5 percent to 10 percent of the bill to bring Edinburg in line with other towns. The town expects a 2 percent increase in the operating contract for the water and wastewater treatment plants, Harshman said.
Harshman advised that the cost to provide water and sewer service continues to climb. The DEQ charged an additional $7,000 in the annual testing required under the town's wastewater discharge permit, Harshman said. The town also can no longer conduct its own testing at the plant's lab. Rather, Edinburg must send samples to a state-certified lab for additional costs, Harshman said. The town has to spread the increasing costs to repair the aging plants or to upgrade software across less than 700 customers.
New Market plans to hold a special called meeting on its proposed 2014 budget at 7:30 p.m. Monday. New Market's proposed 2014 budget calls for a 16 percent reduction from the current period, attributed to a nearly 85 percent reduction in spending on capital projects. The town recently completed construction of the second phase of the streetscape and the Shady Lane Drainage Improvement projects.
However, operations and maintenance spending in the general fund has increased by 2.2 percent. Similar spending in the water and sewer fund has increased by 6.6 percent.
The 2014 budget includes a proposed increase of 3.5 percent in the water and sewer charges. The town also would increase the refundable utility deposit to $175 per account.
Town Manager Evan Vass has proposed no increases in the local tax rates, fees or other levies.
Mount Jackson will hold a public hearing on the proposed 2014 budget at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Mount Jackson has proposed no increases in any of the local tax rates.
However, customers would see slight increases in their bills for water, sewer and trash pickup. Finance Director Neil Showalter explained that the town has had a policy of keeping the utility rates up with the inflation. This means the town has proposed a 2 percent increase in the water and sewer rates.
Under the proposal, water rates would increase from $6.02 to $6.15 per 1,000 gallons. Sewer rates would increase from $11.25 to $11.50 per 1,000 gallons. The town classifies 2,000 gallons per month as the minimum. Showalter said the proposed rates mean bills for the minimum would increase by approximately 76 cents.
Trash collection fees increase from $11 to $11.20 under the proposed rates.
Strasburg will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget and utility rates at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Strasburg proposes a 12-percent increase in water rates and 6 percent for sewer. The proposal calls for increases in the water rates as follows:
- From $21.51 to $24.10 for the first 2,000 gallons of water for residential accounts and from $10.45 to $11.70 per 1,000 gallons over the minimum
- From $22.33 to $25.01 for the first 2,000 gallons of water for non-residential accounts and from $14.75 to $16.52 per 1,000 gallons over the minimum
- Sewer rates would increase as follows:
- From $19.94 to $21.14 for the first 2,000 gallons used in a residential account, and from $10.83 to $11.48 per 1,000 gallons over the minimum
- From $21.47 to $22.76 for the first 2,000 gallons used in a non-residential account, and from $13.50 to $14.31 per 1,000 gallons over the minimum
The town plans to increase the fee for curbside trash collection from $9.10 to $9.20 per month. The town will not increase the fee for curbside recycling collection.
Woodstock Town Council held a public hearing on the fiscal 2014 budget. The town plans no increases in the rates on taxes or utilities. While Woodstock borrowed money to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant several years ago, the town began raising water and sewer rates early on to compensate and help pay off the debt, director of finance Mandy Bilyea said Thursday.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org