Manchester residents can expect an increase in their water and sewer bills next year, but the property tax rate will hold steady at 46 cents per $100 of assessed value if the council approves a proposed $910,817 operating budget that was introduced last night.
Because water and sewer rates must go up, the council did not want to raise property taxes, said David Warner, the acting town manager. "We didn't want to hit the citizens of Manchester with a triple blast."
The council has reviewed the proposed budget in three public workshops and will conduct a public hearing at 8 p.m. April 26 at the town hall. Unless objections are raised, the budget could be approved that night, Mr. Warner said.
Under the current proposal, the water rate would go up this way: Customers would pay a "unit charge" of $10, up from the current $9.60. The rate per 1,000 gallons used would be $1.80, up 6 cents.
That would mean an increase of $1.30 per quarter for the average user of 15,000 gallons of water, Mr. Warner said.
The sewer rate unit charge would rise to $20, and the rate per 1,000 gallons used would go up 25 cents, to $5.50. The increase for the average user of 15,000 gallons would be $11.75 per quarter. The total increase in water and sewer for an average user would be $13.05 per quarter.
"We certainly don't look at that as a drastic increase," Mr. Warner said.
"It's a lean budget. Everything we could trim out of the budget has been trimmed out," he said. "Yet on the other hand, I look at it as a very aggressive, very ambitious budget."
The budget includes a request for $193,700 toward town parks, most of which is to install ball field lights.
The town hall needs a new garage at $16,000, Mr. Warner said, and a new $15,300 sound system and camera for broadcasting meetings on the local cable channel.
The water fund of the capital budget includes about $65,000 as a first step toward acquiring additional water sources. Because of federal clean-water regulations, the town must replace the spring water that makes up about 55 percent of the town supply. Spring water is more vulnerable to contamination than ground water.
About 800 water meters will be replaced over the next five years, Mr. Warner said. The proposed budget seeks to replace 200 of them in 1995-1996 at a cost of $18,000.
An additional $30,000 would be set aside for purchasing property for a new water tank.
The water and sewer increases are "a long time in coming," Councilman Christopher D'Amario said. He chairs the city's water and sewer committee. "Actually, we've been running in the red all year," he said.
The council was reluctant to approve an increase last year until it knew just how much the town would need, he said, so that it wouldn't have to increase the rates twice.
The sewer rate is increasing to pay for expansion of the wastewater plant, and the new spray fields for effluent.
"Another rationale is people did a nice job this year in conserving water, and the way our rates were structured, that hurt us," Mr. D'Amario said.