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Westfield Residents, Businesses to See Bill for New Sewer Fee in Their Mailboxes by May 15

Jackie Lieberman

Friday, March 9, 2012 • 6:03am

WESTFIELD, NJ—Westfield home and business owners can expect to receive a 2012 bill for sewer usage by May 15, according to Councilman Sam Della Fera, chairman of the town’s finance policy committee. The fee will be due on July 1, though there will be a 10-day grace period.

Fees, at least for this year, will be based on the type of structure owned; $170 for a single-family residence, $135 for a condominium or townhouse and $100 per apartment unit for apartment owners. (How this fee will be passed on to renters is up to landlords.) Businesses—also regardless of water usage—will be billed a flat fee of $315 for the year.

“There is a 25 dollar deduction for seniors and disabled persons who qualify under state law for tax deductions,” added Della Fera.

Town council members realized a need to increase revenue after last year’s tax revenue fell short of expectations. While most Westfield property owners (just over 98 percent, according to Della Fera) are paying their taxes on time, an increasing (though very small) number are not. “This fee will fill a $1.2 million hole in the budget,” explained Della Fera.

The fee covers just a percentage of what sewer service actually costs. Historically, the cost was paid by the town with money collected from property taxes.

With a two percent cap on property tax increases imposed by the state, the other option was to cut services. “We’ve been holding off, hoping the economy would change,” said Della Fera. “No one wants to pay more for anything—including me—but I don’t think the alternatives were acceptable to the town council, nor to the people of Westfield,” he said.

As soon as 2013, the fee could change from a flat rate per home or business to one based on water usage. (As it’s impossible to measure how much water goes down the drain, New Jersey American Water instead provides data on how much comes out of the tap.)

In the future, “I think—there’s a chance, anyway—maybe we’ll be able to actually lower the fee,” said Della Fera.

Details of the 2012 town budget will be presented to the public at the March 13 town council meeting.

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