Middletown residents will soon be paying slightly more for water, sewer and trash services.
Middletown Town Council voted unanimously July 1 to approve Mayor Kenneth Branner's $36.44 million spending plan for the coming year, which includes a 10-percent increase in the town's water and sewer rates, as well as a 6.6-percent increase in the monthly trash fee.
Taken together, those fee increases mean the average Middletown homeowners soon will be paying an extra $4.37 per month on their municipal utility bill.
"This budget still makes Middletown the cheapest municipality in Delaware when one compares the rates associated with eight other municipalities of our size and likeness," Branner said prior to council's vote. "Everyone is to be congratulated for coming up with so many fruitful ideas to cut costs and save dollars going forward in fiscal year 2014."
The adopted budget includes $35.5 million in operating expenses – an increase of $1.34 million or 4.3 percent from last year – and $939,700 in capital expenses, a decrease of $3.46 million or 78 percent.
No increase was required in the town's property tax rate of 30 cents per $100 of assessed value in this year's budget, due in part to the increased revenue anticipated from a full year of tax receipts from existing businesses like Johnson Controls, Amazon and Christiana Care, as well as residential growth and new businesses like the 12-screen Westown Movies complex currently under construction, Branner said.
In approving the mayor's budget proposal, town council also agreed not to fill 10 positions that became vacant over the last year due to resignations and retirements. Branner said Middletown also will soon begin offering early-retirement incentives to the town's remaining 141 employees, although details of those incentives were not made available.
The final budget approved by town council anticipates a $50,000 surplus at the end of the year.
But those funds won't affect the $312,000 the town needs to shore up its water/sewer account or the $97,000 shortfall in its trash account that would have resulted without the approved fee increase.
Starting this month, the town's fixed monthly charges for water and sewer consumption under 3,330 gallons will increase by 94 cents from $9.32 to the new fee of $10.26.
The town's water and sewer rates for higher-end users – which are applied after the first 3,330 gallons – will go from $2.80 per 1,000 gallons to $3.08.
Because Middletown uses the same rate structure for both water and sewer, those increases mean an average Middletown homeowner who uses 5,400 gallons of water and an equal amount of sewer each month will pay an extra $1.88 as a result of the minimal-useage fee increase plus another $1.14 as a result of the rate hike on the higher end.
Meanwhile, the town's monthly trash collection fee will increase by $1.35 from $20.50 to $21.85, a hike of $16.20 per year.
Page 2 of 2 - Branner said 66 cents of the approved increase was previously negotiated as part of town's three-year contract with trash service provider Waste Management of Houston, Texas. That contract is slated to expire next summer.
The remaining 69 cents of the approved trash fee increase was needed to maintain the town's weekly yard waste collection service, Branner said.
That service is provided by Middletown's streets department.