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Farmingdale water users to see 15%-20% increase in rates in February

Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand said residential and commercial

Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand said residential and commercial water bills are going up in part to pay debt service on bonds issued to finance a $3.5 million water tower that will replace the current one, pictured. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Watering your lawn in Farmingdale will be more expensive in 2021 under new water rates approved by the village board at its Monday meeting.

Consumption rates for residential customers have increased under the new rate schedule by 15%, rising to $2.60 per 1,000 gallons from $2.25, while the annual service charge has risen to $125 from $96.

Village deputy clerk-treasurer Barbara Kelly said during the meeting that the average homeowner uses 140,000 gallons per year. This means that his or her annual costs will increase by $78, to $489 from $411. The new rates will appear on quarterly bills in February.

The rate hike, the first in more than five years, was needed because of the increased cost of salaries and benefits for water employees and to pay debt service on bonds issued to finance a $3.5 million water tower that is to be constructed, Mayor Ralph Ekstrand said in an interview.

"Costs go up, benefits go up, the pensions and everything go up," Ekstrand said. Also, the village "had to increase the rates due to the funds going forward for the new water tower," he said.

Ekstrand said the increase was "not a significant rate raise" compared to the taxes and consumption costs of other water districts.

The hike also affects commercial properties, on which rates have increased to $4.50 per thousand gallons from $3.75, a 20% increase, and the service fee has risen to $275 from $196.

The village also lowered the number of gallons consumed that would incur a water conservation surcharge to 250,000 gallons per year from 300,000. That surcharge increased to $1.90 per gallon from $1.50 per gallon.

Deputy Mayor William Barrett said during the meeting that the conservation surcharge would affect about 3% of users.

The hike is expected to raise approximately $275,000 in additional revenue, according to village officials.

Several callers into the meeting, held online via Zoom, questioned the timing and necessity of the increase during the comment period after the vote.

"It’s wrong to increase utility rates during this pandemic," said Joseph Staudt. "It’s a difficult time to slam people with a 15-20 percent increase on something they really can’t avoid using such as water."

Chuck Gosline asked for more information about how the rates were decided upon and requested the total amount of additional revenue the hike would bring.

"I’m talking about the rationale for you to make these adjustments; it’s not arbitrary I hope," Gosline said.

Village officials said they would get him information on Tuesday.

Ekstrand said in an interview that the village had intended to raise rates last year but delayed it due to the pandemic.

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