Niskayuna mulls water rate hike

The Niskayuna Town Board, at its Thursday, June 12, meeting, agreed to consider an increase in town water rates in order to reduce the deficit in the water fund.

We have a deficit and there is not much we can do other than raise the rates, said town Comptroller Paul Sebesta, who recommended an increase of 35 cents, from $2.35 per 1,000 gallons to $2.50.

Sebesta reported that the water fund has been running a deficit since 2006, and it worsened in 2007 to an estimated $300,000. If approved at the board's regular meeting Tuesday, June 24, the rate could go into effect July 1. Sebesta estimated the new rate would result in a monthly increase of less than $10 for the average Niskayuna home.

Even with the increase, the town's water rates would compare favorably to neighboring towns, which charge in the range of $3.

The town is in the process of drilling new wells to replace older ones that have degraded water production. The new wells are expected to be on line by September. This will allow the town to purchase less water from the city of Schenectady and will reduce the total cost of water.

"The city of Schenectady has no water metering," said Sebesta. "They combine the water costs in the general tax bill."

One of the problems with water revenue collections in town is the result of antiquated meters in many of the homes, where the homeowners report their usage on an honor system.

"The last time we raised water rates, we did not see an increase in revenue," said Sebesta. The town is looking at updating the meters with an automatic system that would use radio signals, but Niskayuna Supervisor Joe Landry said that updating all meters would be very expensive.

"If we can increase production and improve the monitoring of consumption, the fund would be in better shape," said Landry.

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