Letter: How will Warren finance every flush?
To the editor:
Shortly, Warren’s sewer fees will be $3,000,000 per year, an increase of 144 percent.
Earlier this year, I completed an independent study, the objective of which was to gather pertinent facts and figures regarding both the existing and future costs of operating the Warren Waste Water Treatment Facility. The study was not affiliated nor supported by any group or political organization.
The focus of my work was to gather existing statistics, which were provided to me by the Town of Warren, SUEZ, the firm contracted to operate the waste facility, and the Bristol Water Authority. All of the statistics and financial information contained in the study, was developed by those entities, my role was simply one of gathering and presenting existing facts, figures and potential examples.
Focus of the study:
During 2016, the Waste Facility processed 547,500,000 gallons of waste.
Operating expenses for 2016 were $1,233,044.
The annual servicing fee on the $20 million Sewer Bond, approved by Warren voters, will be $1,400,000.
It is anticipated that the operating expenses for the renovated treatment facility will be increased by approximately 30% or an additional $370,000.
Current operating $1,233,100 + projected increase $370,000 + Bond $1,400,000 =
The projected annual cost for the facility: $3,000,000.
Who is currently paying to flush?
If you own real estate in Warren, take a look at your tax bill and you will find a section entitled TAX RATE. Under that section, you will find Sanitation. Currently, that rate is a percentage of your properties evaluation (1.11). It is estimated that under the current collection system, that percentage will increase to just under 3 percent.
It is important to note that the figures provided are based on the Town’s current total real estate valuation of $1,093,271,700. As a result of the recent re-evaluation, that figure is anticipated to increase by 7%. Also, while sewer fees are currently billed as a percentage of appraised value, that charge does not take into consideration the anticipated Town Budget Tax Increase!
Should the current collection system continue to be used in the future, a property valued at $250,000, would pay approximately $750, in sewer fees, whether they used the treatment system or not. A property assessed at $350,000, would pay approximately $1,050, even if it was just vacant land. A retired couple, living off the sewer line, could be paying more for non-sewer use than a 50 seat restaurant located in town!
In other words, all 4,410, Warren property owners are paying a percentage of their assessed properties value, whether they are using the system or not. As an interesting side note, 80 Bristol home owners are also paying a fee to have their sewerage sent to our treatment facility. However, that charge of $560, per property, is less than any Warren property owner with an assessment of over $200,000, under the renovated facility budget calculation.
These examples are not meant to be criticisms, but rather, just a few indications of the many iniquities in the current fee formula.
What’s the solution?
At this point, I take literary license to go from reporting established facts, to offering my opinion. The projected operating costs for the treatment facility, outlined earlier, indicate an annual increase of $1,770,000, over current expenses, or a 144% increase. This is a serious financial challenge that we as Warren residents have to resolve. A review of the demographic statistics contained in my study, convinces me that there are a number of more equitable sewer fee formulas, available for consideration. Fortunately, we do have a little time to solve this funding challenge. It is my understanding that the Warren Town Council is aware of the situation and it is my hope that they will quickly start a process leading to a more equitable sewer fee resolution.
Andrew B. Shapiro, Architect Emeritus