Sewer user fees and a 'street maintenance fee' - a a total increase of $2 - will be implemented by council

An increase in the 2015 sewer rates for Middletown residents will allow the town to continue reducing its sewer fund deficit.

On Monday, July 7, Middletown Mayor Ken Branner said the 62 cent increase adds up to roughly $3.73 a month more on the sewer bills for the average residential user.

Council will also impose an additional $1 charge to the user fees for all classifications, as well as a “street maintenance fee” of $1 per month per electric customer.

That’s a total increase of roughly $5.73 to the average Middletown homeowner’s monthly budget.

The user fee increase is expected to offset operation costs in both the meter and billing departments, Branner said, while the street maintenance will be used to offset the $1 million street department budget.

That $1 million, Branner added, will be used to address the road and sidewalk problems that arose out of the harsh 2013-14 winter weather.

The council voted unanimously 6-0 to approve the $40 million budget, which Branner said marks a $4.3 million or 10.6 percent increase over the previous year’s budget.

There is no new tax increase associated with the approved budget.

Branner said that, at the request of the town’s auditors and credit rating agencies, all of its existing debt service expenses must be shown in the operating budget – a move reflected by the large percentage increase.

That debt includes the ongoing sewer fund deficit, according to Branner.

The remaining increased expenses, he added, are offset by increased revenues, including commercial utility sales to companies like Amazon, Christiana Care and Johnson Controls, as well as other commercial and residential projects currently underway.

Those new projects also supply income from property transfer taxes, Branner added.

The administration also managed to keep health care costs down despite rising costs nationwide, Branner said, by negotiating with their provider and making plan changes for their employees.

Branner said that while the town is increasing sewer rates and adding the two fees, the town’s overall utility rates remain some of the lowest in the state.

“The average utility rate is about $120 less per month than other municipalities in the state, which equals about $1,440 a year,” Branner said. “Middletown’s tax and utility rates are the lowest in the entire state, when compared to other municipalities that provide the other services that we do.”