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Thursday, July 18, 2024

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Stone Harbor Changes to Water Sewer Rates Debated

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By Vince Conti

STONE HARBOR – Stone Harbor Council voted, Dec. 6, to introduce an ordinance altering rates for water and sewer users, lowering the fees for more than half of the borough’s property owners, while progressively raising rates on the heaviest water users.
Some users at the highest levels are about to see a significant rise in cost. Overall, the new rate structure will result in a 7.4% increase in revenue from water and sewer fees with a projected increase of about $300,000 more in revenue under the new rate structure.
The council debate on the ordinance came from the fact that lowering the base fee for a water-sewer connection would result in a lower bill for about 55% of the users. The explanation for the change was that Stone Harbor has had a higher base rate than many other county municipalities and there was a desire to bring it in line with more general rates.
Before the vote, council was presented with a competing plan developed by Bernadette “Bunny” Parzych, chair of the borough’s utility standing committee. Parzych pointed to a water and sewer utility debt of $27 million and said it was too high. Parzych said the debt needed to be paid down and it made no sense to reduce the fees for over half of the households.
Parzych’s plan would net about $600,000 in added revenue, would still have had over half of the properties experience no increase in rates and would allow the utility to pay down its debt more quickly, she said. Her plan still put the biggest burden on heavy water r users, but it did not lower the rates for households that would receive a decrease under the introduced ordinance. The overall increase in revenue under Parzych’s proposal is 16%.
Parzych’s colleagues on the council saw her plan as one that would result in too much of an increase. A 16% increase, they said, would be a hard sell to their constituents.
The ordinance passed on first reading, with only Parzych casting a negative vote. It will come up for a public hearing and final adoption on Jan. 3.

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