Looking at a nearly 10 percent increase in its budget for the 2018 calendar year, Metropolitan District officials will vote Monday on whether to approve the proposed $167.1 million budget or make changes. Commissioners are also expected to set the water rate for the 2018 calendar year.
Leaders in member towns largely oppose the proposed $15 million budget hike, saying that the increase comes at a time when towns are already receiving less state aid while looking at ways to maintain services at the local level.
MDC officials say the increase is mainly driven by debt and payroll. Debt is increasing by $8 million and payroll is increasing by $2.5 million.
The MDC has proposed increasing its treated water rates from $2.77 per 100 cubic feet of water to $3.14, and its untreated water rates from $1 to $1.50 per 100 cubic feet of water. The proposed rates would mean that customers would see a $3 monthly increase, according to budget documents, which would not include a Department of Public Health fee.
Hartford’s 2017 contribution was about $11 million and in the MDC’s proposed budget, the city would be expected to pay about $11.5 million, broken into four installments over the course of the 2018 year, according to MDC budget documents.
The mayor’s office said Hartford officials have budgeted for the proposed MDC increase in the 2019 budget, and said the increase won’t have a significant impact on the current budget.
In West Hartford, officials are looking at a proposed 10.8 percent, or $881,000, increase over the current contribution.
“I understand this budget includes fixed costs that are very difficult to reduce or eliminate,” West Hartford Director of Financial Services Peter Privitera said in a written statement he plans to present to MDC commissioners Monday. “But please keep in mind that towns face the same financial issues and concerns as you do. In these times of fiscal uncertainty, we must all try to be as conservative as possible.”
Wethersfield Town Manager Jeff Bridges said the roughly $300,000 increase for the town is “adding insult to injury” considering state aid cuts.
Windsor’s contribution would increase from about $3.7 million to $4 million — a 10.3 percent increase over the current budget, according to MDC budget documents.
Town Manager Peter Souza said the proposed increase poses problems to member towns when state aid to towns is also shrinking. He said he’s expressed his concerns to MDC staff and board members.
“Although much of the sewer assessment increase is related to the district’s need to make capital reinvestments, the resulting impact on member towns’ operating budgets creates difficulties for towns to meet their own service demands and capital needs,” Souza said in an email. “I’m hopeful the board of directors will work to modify the proposed budget to mitigate the impact to member towns as well as ratepayers.”
Windsor Mayor Donald Trinks echoed Souza’s concerns, saying the increase is too much for the average citizen or business.
“It’s especially difficult to those that have worked hard to conserve and save water, thinking they were saving money,” Trinks said in an email.
In Bloomfield, the home of the controversial Niagara bottling plant, the contribution would increase from about $3.1 million to nearly $3.3 million.
Bloomfield Finance Director James Wren said the town is disappointed.
“As we begin work on the fiscal year 2019 budget, the Town Council and Town Manager are striving to minimize the mill rate impact to our taxpayers,” Wren said in an email. “This becomes increasingly difficult to do when we know that we will likely continue to receive less money from the state but operation expenditures over which the Town has no direct control, such as the MDC ad velorum tax, continue to spiral upward.”
MDC officials will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget at 5 p.m. in the board room at 555 Main St. in Hartford. MDC officials are expected to adopt the budget during their 5:30 p.m. district board meeting.