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Sunday, January 23, 2011

The real "poop" on the Consolidated Sewer District in NH...

isn't all contained within the NYS Comptroller's audit.

On page 12 of the Comptroller's report, we learn that as of December 31, 2009, the unreserved, unappropriated balance of the Consolidated Sewer District was $1,237,666; considered excessive according to the audit.

According to the report:
Although the consolidated sewer district has an excessive fund balance, the reported cash in this fund was only about $224,000 at the end of 2009. This is due to the consolidated sewer district loaning its cash to other funds -reporting a net receivable due from other funds amounting to about $1.5 million at the end of 2009. A large portion of this relates to loans provided to the other funds, including the police fund which does not currently have the ability to immediately repay the sewer district.
So in addition to the $1 million owed by the police fund to the General Wholetown, there is also $1.5 million owed to the Consolidated Sewer District due to loaning monies to other funds including the police fund.

Once again, according to the Comptroller's Audit:
In recent years, the Board has adopted sewer fund budgets that over-estimated expenditures, which has resulted in an excessive fund balance.
Friends, when budgeted expenditures are overestimated; your tax bill is higher than it needs to be.

But let's take a closer look; beyond the pages of the Comptroller's audit. Their audit says:
The consolidated sewer fund is financed primarily with real property taxes.
This is true for people who live in the town proper; those who live in the two villages (New Hartford and New York Mills) do not pay for maintenance of the town sewers because the villages have their own sewer system and pay for it as part of their village tax bill.

However, what the Comptroller's Audit does not say is that due to errors and lost sewer agreements, not everybody who owns property situated in the Consolidated Sewer District has been paying a yearly sewer maintenance fee [the Sewer Fund] on their tax bill.

If you have sewers and want to see if you are paying Consolidated Sewer fees, look for a charge for N H Cons Sw1 and N H Cons Sw2 on your Town and County tax bill. That is unless you are looking at parcels in the Woodberry Hills development. As of 2011, residents in the Woodberry development are also now paying maintenance fees; however according to town board minutes they were supposed to have started paying them as far back as 1999, but somehow they "fell through the cracks".

How many parcels with sewer hook-ups haven't been charged maintenance fees...we estimate roughly 800 or more parcels have not been charged one or both sewer maintenance fees on their tax bill.

What this all means...some taxpayers who have sewers in the Consolidated Sewer District have been "over"-charged on their tax bill every year. Unfortunately, these same taxpayers are not only being overcharged for sewer maintenance fees by design [by overestimating expenditures]; but they are paying more than they should because others with sewer hook-ups pay nothing AND to top it all off, the money collected from those same overcharged taxpayers has been used to cover shortfalls in other funds [to include the police fund] in an effort to avoid a tax rate increase under the Earle Reed administration. More on that in another blog.

We have approached the town board numerous times regarding the inequities in the assessment database, [not only the past town board, but also the present members], here is a snippet of the January 12, 2011 town board meeting where the topic of sewer maintenance fees was once again brought to the table by Councilman Backman:

This video is only 10 minutes long, so you might want to take the time to view it, particularly if you are one of the "overcharged" sewer users. The town has absolutely no idea how to "fix" the problem and no idea when the "fix" might be made.

By the way, Oneida County's website has copies of all the 2011 Town and County tax bills for the Town of New Hartford and other towns are available on their website as well.

To be continued...

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