Sussex Borough may do a water/sewer rate study as it searches for a way to keep the utility financially solvent.
The borough council on Feb. 2 met with Michael Cohrs of RCap Solutions to discuss the best way to charge users. Dykstra said he was told RCap could dedicate about 100 hours to the question at no cost to Sussex Borough.
“We agreed with all the big projects going on to take a look at everything and make improvements and see if we can get more financially stable,” Dykstra said.
Cohrs said RCap, which is a non-profit, offers several rate-study tools, depending on the size of the water system.
Councilman Robert Holowach said a subscription-based system made sense, one that wasn’t based on water usage but focused instead on the system’s operations, which is the main expense.
“As long as we’re getting our money, I don’t care how much water is used,” Holowach said. “It doesn’t cost us anything to create the water.”
Councilman Charles Fronheiser said the water side of the utility isn’t the money drain that the sewer portion is.
As of Jan. 2019, the water fees are $0.0114 per gallon and $161.76 minimum per EDU, and the sewer rate is $0.0103 per gallon and $144.64 per EDU. The transmission fee is $0.0181 per gallon.
“This EDU situation is not covering our fixed cost,” Dykstra said. “Do we continue to throw increases when our methodology may be wrong? It doesn’t make sense to keep throwing percentage increases to balance the budget when we may be going down the wrong road.”
Mayor Edward Meyer said when the borough charged a fixed cost for water and sewer, people complained that they didn’t use 10,000 gallons of water.
“If we realize we have a fixed cost to pay for, and we put a fixed-cost model in for charging people so that A matches B, that washes,” Holowach said. “We don’t need to make a huge, tremendous profit.”
This is a good time for Sussex to consider a rate study, Cohrs said.
“You’re looking for fairness and to cover your expenses,” he said. “You don’t just want to pay your expenses. You want to build expenses for emergencies.”
Dykstra said the borough wants to keep money on the side to pay for improvements to the water system.
Meyer said the last sewer break was costly. Councilman Charles Fronheiser recalled a break on Christmas day, when a truck hired to haul away spilled materials cost $450 dollars per hour.
“This is why we’re running short on funds,” Meyer said. “The sewer side is killing us.”