FAIRFIELD — Town Councilors unanimously approved an 8 percent sewer rate hike at its meeting Wednesday, but cautioned that customers could see more increases in coming years.

The increase will bring a customer’s minimum quarterly bill to $51.30, roughly $205 a year. The minimum bill includes the first 1,000 cubic feet of water the customer uses, and there is a $3.80 charge for each additional 100 cubic feet. The new rates will go into effect at the next billing period for the quarter ending June 2015.

The increase is in reaction to a revenue shortfall that has left the town’s sewer enterprise operating in the red for the past three years.

Last year, the town’s sewer enterprise lost more than $27,000, and the town projects that the loss this year will be almost $46,000. Next year, it is expected to lose almost $67,000, according to town estimates.

A large part of that shortfall is due to improvements at the Shamut dam that reduced the amount of water flowing into the town’s sewers, according to Town Manager Joshua Reny. At one point, the dam was the largest sewer customer in town, paying close to $40,000 annually, he reported to the council last month.

Changes in consumption are also driving a reduction in the amount of water people are using, he noted at the meeting Wednesday.

An analysis of users indicates that the number of customers using more than 1,000 cubic feet during a quarter are falling, while the number of minimum users is increasing, Reny said.

That follows a national trend, as people use different methods to conserve water like low-flow toilets and shower heads, he told the council.

Minimum users are still a minority of the sewer district’s customers. There are 382 users that receive minimum bills, compared with 678 that use more than 1,000 cubic feet.

But even though big users still outnumber those paying the minimum bill, the changing trend toward more conservation means that the town is unlikely to see the volume of water customers use increase substantially, Reny said.

“I don’t anticipate that we will see a spike in consumption,” he told the council, adding that at best usage would stabilize.

That could mean that Fairfield will need to come back to ratepayers again in the next few years for more rate increases, he said.

Even with the increase approved Wednesday, the town’s sewer may still operate at a loss next year. With the increased rates, the town will bring in about $412,000 in revenue, about $31,500 more than last year, but still $35,500 less than it needs to break even if the town’s projections for operating losses in 2015-2016 hold true.

The council voted 4-0 to approve the rate increase, although Councilor Stephanie Thibodeau expressed her interest in raising the rates even higher in order to overcome the revenue shortfall. Council Vice-Chairman John Picchiotti did not attend the meeting.

Peter McGuire — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.