In the first glimpse into the 2012 budget, Council President James Lonergan announced several rising prices for residents, including sewer, water and municipal parking fees.
Wet weather over the summer drove down water and sewer usage, Lonergan said, affecting the prices the borough must charge to break even.
Sewer rates will go up 13 percent, Lonergan said, "from the current rate of $3.05 [per cubic foot] to $3.45."
Prices for sewage rates are based on a three-year average. Lonergan said sewage use went down so much in 2011 that the borough must raise prices to bring in the same revenue as previous years.
"We may get a benefit at the end of this year [which will allow the price to] go back to the norm," Lonergan said, "but you've got to use the averages."
Water rates will also rise by 8 percent, driven mostly by an increase in debt service because of infrastructure improvements. The rate will rise from $3.58 to $3.86.
"Debt service is up significantly from 2011," Lonergan said of the water rate. "There is an increase, but it's mostly related to the capital that we put into the water facility."
Lonergan also said New Jersey American Water (NJAW) has applied for a 15 percent increase to their rates. NJAW provides water to surrounding municipalities, including .
According to the borough's former CFO, Tammie Kopin, the average annual water consumption for a borough residence is about 12,000 cubic feet of water. At $3.58 per cubic foot, Kopin said the cost per year was about $429.60. At the new rate, the cost per year will be $463.20.
Prior rates for water usage are outlined in the table below, according to Kopin's information.Time Frame Water Usage Rate January to April 2008 $2.90 April 2008 to April 2009 $3.10 April 2009 to April 2010 $3.30 April 2010 to April 2011 $3.42 April 2011 to December 2011 $3.58
For both water and sewer departments, Lonergan said operating expenses and salaries remained about even from 2011 to 2012.
Municipal parking fees will rise effective in 2013, since the 2012 rates have already been approved by resolution at the Oct. 24 borough council meeting. All rates will go up by $45. The 2013 municipal parking rates will be:Chatham Borough Municipal Parking Rates 2012 2013 Lots No. 1 and No. 2, Railroad North and South $375 $420 Lots No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5, Center Street East, Center Street West, Bowers Lane $195 $240 Lot No. 6, Division Avenue $185 $230
Lonergan said the borough will also look at increasing parking spaces.
Borough Administrator Robert Falzarano said parking rates for 2010 in surrounding towns could be much higher than Chatham's rates. Summit residents, for example, paid $864 for their municipal parking permits; Morristown residents paid $600 for parking fees in 2010; and Madison residents paid $400. That year, borough residents paid $355 for parking at the in Chatham.
"We're not the highest, but we're not the lowest," Falzarano said.
First Glimpse of 2012 Budget
While Lonergan did not give specific numbers for the 2012 budget, saving those for the presentation of the full budget at the next meeting, he did say the overall budget has declined by six percent in past years and Chatham Borough's tax levels are the fourth lowest in Morris County.
Lonergan described much of the base budget as "weather-driven," and the borough "couldn't have been hit worse" in 2011. The , and cost the borough greatly, and the "incredibly wet summer," Lonergan said, drove down revenues usually brought in from water and sewer usage.
The year 2011, though, is only part of the puzzle. "The challenge that we are faced with," Lonergan said, "is what we're seeing as a multi-year revenue decline. The amount of income coming into the town continues to drop."
The drop comes as residents get their homes reassessed to lower their property taxes as the economy continues at a slow pace.
At the same time, the borough has been forced to correct infrastructure problems "that have not been addressed for 16, 17, 18 years," Lonergan said, and "the demand [for] exceptional services remains."
The full budget will be introduced at the next Chatham Borough Council meeting on Feb. 27.