MOREAU — Supervisor Todd Kusnierz may have found a way to fund a Route 9 sewer district without pricing out the residents who live there.
He is investigating the possibilities of an ad valorem tax to pay for construction and maintenance of the district. The tax would apply to each land owner based on the assessment of their land, rather than on the number of users there.
That means the owners of large tracts of vacant land would end up paying more than in previous plans, while single-family residents would pay less.
Cost estimates may be presented at the Feb. 27 Town Board meeting.
Kusnierz is eagerly awaiting those figures.
“It may be, especially for residents, a little more affordable,” he said.
And even if the cost is not significantly less, it would be “more fair,” he said.
In the last plan, residents complained that the owners of vacant land were to be assessed one EDU (estimated dwelling unit), which is the same price charged to a single family residence. They said that wasn’t fair, noting some owned 100 acres and were hoping to sell to large developers.
Supporters of the sewer district countered by saying that once those lots were developed, the owners would pay much more.
But until then, the residents would have to bear the brunt of the sewer district costs, and many said it was unaffordable.
The ad valorem tax would be based on each property’s assessment. While vacant land has a much lower assessment than developed land, it would still be a more reasonable basis for a sewer tax, Kusnierz said.
“The assessment is the assessment,” he said. “I think it’s more fair versus assigning 1 EDU.”
For example, many residential properties are assessed about $130,000 and would have paid a sewer bill based on 1 EDU. One of the vacant lots that was assessed at 0.5 EDU, half the cost of a residential property, was assessed at $167,200. That means the property owner would pay a little bit more than a resident, rather than half as much.
“I think this brings them a little more in line with shouldering their share of the burden,” Kusnierz said.
It would also help with developed land. Some business owners complained because their cost was based on how much water they use, even if the water does not wind up in the sewer system. A case in point: the Dunkin Donuts, which uses water for coffee, but was charged 38.5 EDUs in the most recent plan.
Laberge Engineering expects to complete its map and plan before the Feb. 27 Town Board meeting. They will make a presentation at that meeting.
“I’m dying to see the plan and the numbers,” Kusnierz said. “Anything under $24 million is my goal.”
The last plan was $22.9 million. It was dropped after an engineer tried several different ways to lower the cost and ended up making mistakes that understated the actual cost per user. The Town Board eventually voted last year to abandon that plan and start over with a different engineer.