The Bourne Board of Sewer Commissioners has officially set the rate for sewer users for the coming fiscal year. Sewer system users in Bourne will pay $259 more in Fiscal Year 2022 than in FY21.
Board members officially voted on the new rate during their meeting last Tuesday, August 24. The new rate will be $1,183, which is $24 less than the $1,207 initially projected. The lower rate was previously announced at the sewer commissioners’ meeting on July 13 but not officially voted on until this week.
The decrease is due, in part, to a $1.165 million subsidy from the Cape Cod and Islands Water Protection Fund. Bourne Town Administrator Anthony E. Schiavi explained that the money from the water protection fund “allowed us to decrease our debt service about $26,100.”
Given the subsidy from the Cape and Islands Water Protection Fund and the resulting decrease in debt service, the commissioners voted in favor of placing an article on the warrant for this fall’s Special Town Meeting calling for a $26,100 reduction in the FY22 sewer budget that was approved at this spring’s Annual Town Meeting.
Last Tuesday night, Mr. Schiavi recommended that the commissioners lock in the lower user rate and keep in place a 1 cent per gallon overage rate already in place. The administrator said studies had been done on how much additional revenue the town could realize by increasing the overage rate.
He said an additional $25,000 in revenue could be taken in if the overage rate was increased to 1.5 cents per gallon. He cautioned that, when people start to see rate increases, the tendency can be to resort to conservation measures.
“You can get yourself into a bit of a problem when you assume you’re going to capture all that revenue,” he said, “and that can lead you into a false sense of security that the additional revenue is real.”
Both the sewer user and overage rates were unanimously approved at $1,183 per household and 1 cent per gallon, respectively.
Discussion also focused on the use of sewer allocation fees, which are part of the retained earnings in the sewer enterprise fund. Board chairwoman Mary Jane Mastrangelo noted that the town took in $24,430 in allocation fees in FY21.
The allocation fees collected last year and any future allocation fees, she said, should be earmarked for reducing sewer user rates. Ms. Mastrangelo said the purpose behind charging allocation fees has always been to help hold down user costs brought on by operation and maintenance of the new wastewater treatment facility in Buzzards Bay.
“These fees are charged to help offset some of the debt and other costs that are in the budget for that facility,” she said.
Ms. Mastrangelo added that she was not asking the commissioners to add the allocation fees to the $50,000 in retained earnings already in the FY22 sewer budget. She said she raised the topic merely to be sure that the allocation fees were being used as intended.
“I think it’s what we said we were going to do,” she said, “charge the fees so we could use them to reduce the rates.”