BROWNVILLE, Maine — A sewer rate increase, the first since the late 1990s, has been proposed for the 360 customers of the Brownville Sewer District.
The town is changing the way it calculates the sewer user fees and under that new proposed calculation the base rate for those connected to the system will increase from $19.95 to $40 a quarter. In addition, the user rate will increase from $55.50 to $86.70 a quarter.
“We were trying to hold the line for our sewer customers for as long as we possibly could but at this point our current rate structure will not support sewer operations,” Brownville Town Manager Sophia Wilson said Monday. “Our rates were not enough in the past five years to bring in the revenue required to operate the system.”
A public hearing on the proposed rate increase will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 17, at the Alumni Building in Brownville Junction.
Selectmen have the authority to set the rate increase that does not need approval from the Public Utilities Commission. The intent is for the rate increase to become effective Oct. 1.
Wilson said the current rates were adopted in the late 1990s when significant upgrades were done to the water and sewer systems. The rates then were a best guess of what it would take to run the department, she said.
A rate structure is usually supposed to last from three to five years and this rate structure lasted a whole lot longer than that, Wilson said. Over that same time period, the cost of doing business has increased, she explained. State and federal regulations have increased, which forced the department to hire additional personnel, and other costs have risen significantly, she said.
“It’s important for people to understand there are a lot of fixed costs of running a utility system and the smaller number of customers have to bear those same fixed costs as in larger systems,” Wilson said.
In some towns, a portion of the sewer costs is included in the property tax bills paid by all taxpayers but that’s not the case in Brownville, according to Wilson. All costs are paid solely by the users.
Brownville has 22 subsurface sewer systems: a traditional municipal sewer system in which the sewer is piped into a leach bed in the Junction and 11 smaller systems in the village, Wilson said.