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EDITORIAL: Water customers should get rate cuts

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A new 135-foot water tower was put up in 2007 in Moreau. Here, the finishing touches are put on the tower’s paint job. Two of the town’s water districts regularly run large surpluses. The Town Board should return those surpluses to ratepayers.

The two Moreau water districts that each have more than $800,000 in savings they don’t need have an obligation to return their surpluses to their customers in the form of rate cuts.

Almost every year, water districts No. 2 and No. 4 in Moreau have been running surpluses in the tens of thousands of dollars. Since the districts have no use for the surpluses, they’ve been piling up.

In district No. 2, for example, the surplus has grown from about $363,000 in 2007 to $820,000 now.

In district No. 4, over the same time, the surplus grew from about $253,000 to $865,000.

The Town Board runs the water districts. As Town Board members know, it’s bad budgeting to be overcharging water district customers every year, but that is exactly what the board is doing. The first thing the board should do is lower rates in the two water districts so their budgets balance.

The second thing board members should do is lower rates even more, so they can start eating away at those huge savings accounts. Instead of surpluses, districts No. 2 and No. 4 should start running deficits and take money from savings every year to cover the shortfall.

We’re not recommending they run large deficits, but that they whittle away at the savings accounts and allow a modest easing of water rates. Perhaps customers in those districts would save $50 or $100 a year, which isn’t like winning at Powerball, but it’s worth doing.

Board members showed little enthusiasm for eliminating the overcharges when they learned it would save customers only $25 or so. But any time we have a chance to save $25, we’ll take it. If it was our own money to begin with, as it is for the overcharged water customers, we would demand it.

That $25 represents only the annual overcharges. Customers will save more when the Town Board starts also drawing down the water districts’ savings accounts.

Town Board member Bob Prendergast has been pushing for rate cuts. He also wants the board to eliminate the minimum charge for service, arguing that the districts don’t need it because they have no debt.

Relying on metering alone will also encourage water conservation, by rewarding those who are frugal. Now, people have no financial incentive to use less water than what is covered by the minimum charge.

Other board members told Prendergast they want to study the proposal, but as Prendergast pointed out, the surpluses have been around, and he has been pushing to deal with them, for years.

The newly elected supervisor, Gardner Congdon, was on vacation, but now that he is back, we expect a lot to happen. Cutting rates for town water customers would be an excellent place to start.

Local editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Terry Coomes, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle, Controller/Operations Director Brian Corcoran and citizen representative George Nelson.


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