NUTLEY, NJ - Nutley residents will soon see a $3 a month service and maintenance fee on their water bill. The updated ordinance was unanimously passed during the Tuesday, Dec. 4 Board of Commissioners public meeting.
A public hearing was held for Ordinance No. 3399 to amend Ordinance No. 412 of the Township Code entitled Water, more specifically, Chapter 685, Article 1, Regulations and Rates. The ordinance introduced during the Oct. 2 public meeting, was postponed in November for its second reading and public hearing.
According to Mayor and Public Works Commissioner Joseph P. Scarpelli, water consumption has been declining in the past few years. “Fixed costs within the water department are not [being] covered by consumption. Since consumption went down our revenue went down which left us with a short-fall this year,” he said.
To cover the $340,000 loss in revenue, money was pulled from the DPW operating budget. The township is down $600,000 because of lack of usage he said.
In exchange for the fee the township will take responsibility with the supply line from the curb to the water box which is currently the homeowner’s responsibility. The township will also eliminate the cost for meter replacement and the charges for turning the water on and off.
In 2017 the water department budget was set at $5.04 million including purchased water, this year it was set at $4.5 million; a decrease of over half a million. In order to lower the DPW budget, Scarpelli had to let four full time employees go. Scarpelli added, “Even if usage increases next year the fee will stay, there are fixed costs that don’t change.
“You can’t assume more revenue than the year before. Wetter than normal weather, which the township has had in the last two years and consumption matters. I have to [attribute] most of it to weather. People aren’t watering their lawns, they’re not filling their pools, the things that use a significant amount of water,” said Scarpelli.
With a maintenance and service fee the township will be able to cover the decrease in consumption. “If you are always tied to usage then you are always tied to consumption. If you have a maintenance fee you always have an income that’s there all the time,” he said.
Some of these fixed costs include $1.2 million a year to North Jersey District Water Supply Commission, the water department audit is $64,000 a year, and three million gallons a day for usage, and NJ Environmental Infrastructure Trust (NJEIT) loans of $137,000 a year. The township also pays for what is used from Passaic Valley Water Commission and a premium cost from Newark Water Supply Division. Including the department’s health benefits, social security and pension, which are over $400,000 a year.
According to Scarpelli water bills only had one rate increase in 2013 and there has been no increase since then. “Our infrastructure is old. Other towns have problems and we don’t want them,” said Scarpelli.
The $3 a month fee will generate approximately $304,000 a year from the DPW department.
“It’s just an insurance policy for somebody. If they were to have their water supply [repairs] done its $1,200 that’s the average cost at $3 month; that’s 33 years for them to pay that off. So an insurance policy alone it’s worth it, plus the other costs [other responsibilities] we are going to pick up,” he said.
Also changes in the ordinance include a section on new supplies and upgrades. If a resident wants a new service, an upgraded service or are building a new house then they will be charged for it, those will not be included in the $3 monthly fee. What has not changed is the general rate for consumption. Scarpelli gave an example, “If someone wanted to put a pool in their backyard and asked for a two inch line instead of a one inch line that would be an upgrade and the resident would have to pay for it.”
“We brought the ordinance up to where it should be, because the ordinance was 47 years old,” said Scarpelli.
Parks and Recreation Commissioner Mauro G. Tucci said at first he was opposed to the $3 maintenance fee that meter rate. “…but now I’m less opposed then appose to charging our residents for improvements to supply lines because their responsibility gets picked up at the curb box and goes to the meter then obviously everything inside their homes,” he said
Tucci would like the fees to be looked at in a year; he believes consumption could rise again. Scarpelli said they would look at the rate at that point.
The next Board of Commissioners meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18.
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