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Revenue Increase from Sewer Rent is Tiny and Troublesome

October 13, 2005


For decades, our paying for sewers out of the general property tax levy has worked just fine. Supporters of the new Sewer Rent law have two motives enacting this new measure: (1) Lower next year’s tax appropriation; and (2) Raise “new money” from our village’s tax-exempts. I applaud an attempt to ‘think outside the box,’ particularly regarding Village finance. And I strongly oppose this Sewer Rent law. The proposed Sewer Rent law is too much headache for too little new revenue.

Shifting annual sewer repair costs to the water bill would disguise an equal increase in the Village’s next budget. If we move $150,000 from the general tax levy to a new sewer fund, billed as a utility, the mayor could add up to $150,000 in new expenses to the 2006-7 tax levy, before our tax rate would go up.

Why have we not heard this reason stated publicly? What happened to open government?

The second motive—fetching the village new money—is an honorable goal. But the proposed sewer rent may cost much more in possible litigation and administration than the minuscule net gain to village income from such a rent.

Why would we enact a new law for which the real financial gain is tiny and comes at the expense of those institutions with whom we must cooperate most closely— our school district and houses of worship? This smacks of punitive government, an impression I am certain we want to avoid.

The search for new money for the Village is an admirable goal. The proposed Sewer Rent Law increases Village revenue by less than 3/10ths of one percent—a truly insignificant amount. It burdens the Village with new legal and administrative costs and potentially negative countermeasures.

How much do we spend maintaining our sewers?

In April at mayor’s eleventh hour request, Village staff hastily estimated the annual cost of sewer maintenance at c. $150,000. The truth is that the Village does not know with any degree of certainty exactly how much we spend on sewer maintenance. Why? Because sewer repair work is spread across several departments and has not ever before needed to be tracked as a separate total. So if we don’t know, then how can we estimate how much sewer rent we need to collect?

Where is the New Money from our Tax-Exempts?

New Village revenue would come from sewer rent paid by tax-exempt organizations that pay no property tax now. The following tax-exempt institutions use Village water and would pay sewer rents as estimated below (if sewer rent is billed at 15% of the water bill).

Rent from Tax Exempts - Est. annual sewer rent @15% of water bill

  1. MetroNorth Railroad - $12,500
  2. Westchester Parks - $ 3,900
  3. School District - $2,000
  4. Religious Buildings - $761

Total new money - $19,161

Why is the New Money not likely to materialize?

This “new money” from tax-exempt institutions is pretty uncertain. The bulk of this new money is wide open to legal challenge. The proposed law allows the Village to levy a sewer rent on a premise that is part of the Ossining Sanitary Sewer District OSSD. Yet, Metro North (MNRR) is not part of the Ossining District. MNRR and the County Park at Croton Point share a connection directly to the OSSD line under Riverside Drive and appear not to use any Village sewer pipe.

Apparently MNRR has a separate agreement with the County. So MNRR and County Park are already paying a fee for sewer hookup directly to the County. It is very unclear the Village could bill them at all.

If MNRR and the County Park successfully repeal their sewer rents, the new sewer rent income from the tax-exempts is down to a paltry, annual sum of $2,800.

The School District may consider defraying its new sewer rent cost by increasing the fees that its charges for use of its buildings and fields or passing it on to district taxpayers or both. Village recreation and continuing education programs are major users of School District space. So sewer rent may simply raise the Village’s own bill for use of school space in the future.

Earlier this year, the Village staff presented about a dozen fiscal options to the new administration. The new administration chose to pursue only one, sewer rent. And sewer rent falls grossly short of either reducing costs or raising any significant new money.

In contrast, new property tax income from the construction of a few large homes would raise much more new money than this entire sewer rent fabrication—with very low attendant costs.

The Public Hearing on the proposed Sewer Rent Law will be reconvened Monday, October 15, 2005, 8 pm, at a regular Village Board meeting in the Municipal Building. If passed, sewer rent would go into effect December 1, 2005. Come and tell the Village Board what you think! We need to hear from you.

Leo A. W. Wiegman
Trustee, Village of Croton-on-Hudson

On October 16, 2005 7:22 PM, Leo Wiegman said:

Will homeowners with septic systems who do not use village sewer receive a sewer rent bill?

I will try to find out and have asked that this question be addressed at tomorrow’s public hearing on Sewer Rent.

On October 14, 2005 11:08 AM, poppins said:

God help us all if there are more lawsuits filed against this village because of political stupidity. Both democrats and republicans are guilty of politicizing just about every issue that comes before the board. It’s a we/them contest about every little thing and it has to stop! It’s costing us big time.

This sewer tax law should be judged on its merits alone and not whether it’s a republican or democratic initiative. The board should show true leadership and end up with a unanimous vote for what’s best for the village and not for either side of the political spectrum. .

On October 14, 2005 10:44 AM, bojangles said:

Remember me. I’m a relative newcomer to both the blog and Croton. I’m posting this before a public hearing on the proposed new sewer tax law. The idea that republican versus democrat could play role in such a vote is unbelievable to me. How can something like this have a political component to it. Sewer laws and taxes affect us all. There are no republicans or democrats when we pay our bills on the local scene. We get enough of that from Washington DC. But here, in small town Croton - impossible - why - who stands to win or lose?

On October 14, 2005 10:24 AM, cherrio said:

That’s a great line WeeWill - politics have everything to do with sewers as far as I can see!

Having said that, I hope its not going to be the case in this decision. It looks like shifting dollars from one page to another is not going to result in any additional money for the village. As a matter of fact it may cost us money when the administrative costs of administering such a program are factored into the equations.

Why would we do this? Unless I’m missing something really important it doesn’t make any sense.

On October 14, 2005 10:24 AM, TeaDrinker said:

By email from the Village:

There will be a Public Hearing on the proposed sewer rent law on Monday, October 17th at 8pm.

View the proposed law and a summary of the impact the law would have on the average homeowner here.

This public notice is sent to you as a courtesy from the Village of Croton-on-Hudson. As a subscriber to our website, you receive all notices that have been posted on our home page at www.crotononhudson-ny.gov.

On October 14, 2005 10:08 AM, weewill said:

This new sewer tax sounds like a complete waste of time from what at least the 2 democratic trustees say about it. I’m assuming the Mayor and other 2 trustees must be in favor of it if it’s being proposed and is on the agenda. There had to be some good reasons for proposing it. No one has talked about the real benefits and we need to know what they are before we can make intelligent decisions.

Thank you Trustee Wiegman and Kane for giving us your reasons for opposition to it. The are clear and well thought out. Now we need to hear from the Mayor and Trustees Steinberg and Brennan. It appears they are in favor of it. They may be right. We need to understand why they are, if they are.

Up to this point the new board has been busy implementing the good things initiated by the previous board and we’ve heard very little from them.

Please gentlemen, help us out here! This seems to be the first and only decision this new board has reached. This cannot and should not be a political decision. No 3-2 republican vs democrat vote! It’s either good for the village or not.

Politics make no difference when dealing with sewers!



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