By a 5-1 vote during its Nov. 9 meeting, the Poynette Village Board approved a 3% increase in the sewer utility rates. The increase would go into effect beginning in January, and was recommended by Ehlers, the village’s financial advising company.
Village Administrator Martin Shanks said the sewer utility was operating effectively with no cash on hand for many years. It owed money to the general fund and was only covering its annual operational costs and debt payments.
In 2018, the village conducted a comprehensive review of the rates. An entirely new rate structure was created and adopted along with a rate increase that went into effect in 2019. An additional 3% increase occurred for 2020.
The utility is now accumulating cash reserves. It’s estimated the fund will have around $158,165 in cash, exclusive of debt proceeds, at the end of 2021. The utility is now fully covering its operation costs, debt payments and repaying the village’s general and capital funds.
Ehlers recommended the utility have six months of operating expenses on hand, including depreciation plus 100% of debt payments for the following year. This would be approximately $300,000 and will take take several years to accomplish, according to Shanks.
The utility is also expected to have some capital costs over the next 5-10 years. Shanks said the increase was needed in order to stay ahead of any potential utility projects like main replacements, lift station work, and treatment plant work — some of which are planned in the coming years.
“The village has done a tremendous job of fiscal discipline in the sewer utility over these last couple of years,” Shanks said. “The financial health of the utility is trending in a very positive direction. ... Adding in these single-digit rate increases is significantly much more palatable to most individuals than waiting several years and having to do a large rate increase.”
Currently, village residents pay $92.26 per quarter, based on average residential usage of 9,600 gallons of water. It would increase to $95.03 per quarter. By comparison, Shanks looked at what nearby communities were paying under the same average usage — Cottage Grove ($96.67/quarter), Marshall ($112.18/quarter), Waterloo ($114.85/quarter), Lodi ($138.17/quarter), Deerfield ($173.70/quarter) and Cross Plains ($190.80/quarter).
Trustee Terri Fiore voted against the rate increase.
In other news, the board approved a special permit for a food truck from Jose’s Restaurant in Baraboo to park in the parking lot of Pauquette Park from 2-8 p.m. every Thursday between April 1-Oct. 28. It was noted that there could be issues in the summer with baseball games, but Shanks said that schedules and parking arrangements will be adjusted as needed.
Poynette Police Department
Chief Eric Fisher noted in his monthly report to the board that the department’s annual Stuff the Squad event will be Saturday, Nov. 21 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the parking lot of the Piggly Wiggly.
The annual Shop With A Cop program will be Saturday, Dec. 5, and Fisher said that this year the event will be limited to 12 or 13 children.
Also per Fisher’s report, as of Nov. 1, all parking fines within village limits increased to $20. If the fine is not paid in 10 days, the amount is doubled to $40. After 60 days and two written notices to the registered owner of the vehicle, the police department will suspend the registration through the Department of Transportation.
Village eligible to qualify as a Tree City USA municipality
The village is eligible to qualify as a “Tree City USA” — a program operated by the Arbor Day Foundation as it recognizes communities that exercise sound urban forestry management practices. Nearby communities that already have the designation are Portage, Columbus, Pardeeville, Wisconsin Dells, DeForest and Waunakee. A total of 195 communities in Wisconsin have this designation.
In order to qualify, municipalities must:
— Establish a tree board or department. The village has designated the Parks Commission as the village’s tree board.
— Establish a tree care ordinance. The village has already created a tree care ordinance that meets the requirements.
— Have a community forestry budget with at least $2 per capita. The village meets this requirement by the amount budgeted for forestry works every year.
— Issue an Arbor Day Proclamation and observance — the only one Poynette doesn’t have, plus the observance is being waived due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Arbor Day is April 30.