Even though New York City’s entitlement and excess rates are set to increase in 2021-22, the village water department is proposing no rate increase for the upcoming budget.
Since 2019-20, the village’s water rate of $3.50 per 100 cubic feet of water has been one of the lowest base rates in Westchester County, only bested by the city of White Plains, which charges $2.67 per 100 cubic feet of water.
According to superintendent Steve Johnson, the water department is in the process of completing its master plan, which will cover the entire water distribution system and what it will cost to rehabilitate the system over the next 20 years. He expects the plan to be completed in “the next couple of weeks.”
“This is not the year to be considering increasing water rates based on everything that we’ve been through,” said Village Manager Steve Pappalardo. “We will be much better informed when we realize what our capital expenses are going to be in order to set these rates for years out.”
In 2020, the village pumped 1.155 billion gallons of water, which is 132,620,000 gallons more than in 2019. The village’s peak day was June 25, when 7.1 million gallons of water was pumped, up from 6.2 million on Sept. 22, 2019.
Scarsdale also employs a tiered excess water rate model, with a base rate of $3.50 for 1 to 50 cubic feet of water, an excess rate Tier 1, which is three times the base rate for 50.01 to 125 cubic feet of water and an excess rate Tier 2 which is 3.5 times the base rate for anything over 125.01 cubic feet. The village added the excess Tier 2 rate in 2019.
Last summer, 1,007 customers went into Tier 2 rate and 1,969 were in Tier 1.
With New York City entitlement increasing by 6%, Trustee Lena Crandall said “it didn’t make sense” why the village wouldn’t raise water rates now to stay in line with the anticipated entitlement rate increase.
“I’m concerned that our residents will face a steep increase in the future, and it would be nice to soften that by just keeping up with the 6% increase that we’re facing from the New York City water source,” said Crandall.
Mayor Marc Samwick said one of the reasons he was reluctant to increase water rates now was because it made more sense to wait until the department’s master plan was released to have a clearer path forward and so rates could be increased in the context of the study.
The board is allowed to raise any rates or fees by resolution anytime throughout the year.
Trustee Justin Arest said he always supports not raising fees but was concerned if keeping the rate flat would “make it more difficult and more of a deficit next year or the year thereafter” when the board knows water infrastructure investments need to be made.
“Are we doing a disservice to a lot of our residents rather than kind of slowly building up to it?” he asked.
Samwick said he wasn’t saying that the board shouldn’t raise rates, but rather to use the upcoming master plan as a guideline so they know how much they would need to raise them.
The water department also has $3.7 million in capital budget expenses including $48,000 in new equipment, $175,000 for remote meter radios, $240,000 for pipe lining and valve replacement design, $3 million for pipe lining and valve replacement construction, $12,000 for water garage roof repairs and $125,000 for the Catskill Aqueduct chlorine shutdown. The village proposes to borrow funds for the $3 million-plus pipe lining design and replacement.