Phoenicia water rates could be flowing up

By Jay Braman Jr.
A dramatic reduction in water usage in Phoenicia has thrown the community’s water district’s cost formula out of whack, officials say. As a result, an increase in the cost of water for the district’s users can now be expected.
How much of an increase remains uncertain.
This week, working from memory of his recent review of water district finances, Town of Shandaken Supervisor Peter DiSclafani said that data collected between May and December of last year showed a drop of over five million gallons from the year before.
DiSclafani said he believes the drop is due to conservation.
Usage was not the only thing that changed last year in the Phoenicia Water District. Following recommendations from a water committee that met in private, last year’s town board voted in a rate change for the users that shifted much of the cost burden onto high water users such as restaurants. That change followed a surprise two years ago when district property owners received a tax bill significantly higher than the year before due to increased district costs. In an effort to bring those tax bills down, the water usage bills were brought up. At the time, Supervisor Robert Cross Jr. said the new formula put the cost of water on those who use it.
While that is true, the formula never took into account what would happen if water usage dropped.
DiSclafani, who was on the town board for the past two years before being elected supervisor, said that tax bills sent out last year were based on the assumption of a repeat of the usage the year before. Now, the large drop in usage could represent a $25,000 budget shortfall in 2008. Expected to offset that shortfall however, should be a reduction of costs to filter the water because less has been running through the system.
The figures however need to be fully reviewed. On Monday District Water Commissioner Ric Ricciardella was unable to confirm DiSclafani’s data.
He did note that last week several leaks were detected and repaired along water mains. The repairs have stopped leaks amounting to 75,000 gallons per day, Ricciardella said, but those leaks were not in places that would have affected anyone’s water meters.