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Mayor, council vote to hike sewer rate

May 11, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

FUNKSTOWN - The Funkstown mayor and Town Council on Monday voted unanimously to raise the town sewer rate by 85 percent, but voted down raising property taxes by 5 cents.

The votes followed a discussion about money needed to pay for a state-mandated upgrade of the town's wastewater treatment plant.

"We've got to raise water rates and sewer rates, there's no question about it," Assistant Mayor Paul N. Crampton Jr. said. "I'd hate to hit the customers twice."

Town Clerk Brenda Haynes said the sewer charges on town utility bills are equal to 75 percent of the water charges. With the increase, the sewer charges would amount to 160 percent of the water charges. The bill also includes garbage collection fees.

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Haynes said a quarterly utility bill - based on the use of 11,000 gallons of water - now costs $38.74 in sewer charges. With the increase, the same amount of water usage would cost residents $100.70 in sewer charges.

The rate increase will take effect in September, Haynes said.

The increase approved Monday is based on the assumption that Funkstown will receive an $800,000 Community Development Block Grant in July, which would help offset the cost of upgrading the wastewater treatment plant. Council members decided if the town does not receive the block grant, they will have to raise sewer rates even more.

Haynes said that without the grant, sewer charges would have to make up 220 percent of the water charges. Based on the use of 11,000 gallons of water, residents would pay $116.19 in quarterly sewer charges if the town doesn't receive the grant.

She said if the town receives the $800,000 grant, which would be used in addition to $500,000 in grant money the town has received from the Maryland Department of the Environment, it would have $1.3 million to put toward upgrading the wastewater treatment plant.

Haynes said that on top of the $1.3 million in grant money, the town would have to borrow $1,075,750 from the Maryland Department of the Environment in the form of a 20-year loan. In addition, she said, the town would need to borrow $200,000 each year for the next three years from the MDE to have sludge removed from two of the wastewater treatment plant's lagoons.

The cost of construction work in upgrading the treatment plant is estimated at about $2.4 million, Haynes said. She said construction is set to be complete by November 2005.

The Maryland Department of the Environment is requiring Funkstown to upgrade its wastewater treatment plant by 2005, Haynes said.

Town Council members voted to keep property taxes the same unless they learn that the budget cannot be balanced without a 5-cent increase over the current rate of 22 cents per $100 valuation.

Haynes said she will rework the budget to see if the town can get by without a property tax increase.

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