Sewer taxes should be equitable
Published 7:43 pm, Thursday, September 23, 2010
After reading the reports in the news from our neighbors regarding the impact of the new sewer use fee it clearly shows that most people did not understand what would result with the change.
Westports' government had good intentions and provided the required notification to change over the system. However, I believe they did not clearly let the residents know what could happen to yearly sewer use fee should you have water system deficiencies.
If you have toilet(s) that leak you could owe thousands of dollars in sewer use fees. You may not notice the water use charges paid to Aquarion because that is what you usually pay. If you have old-code flush toilets, by the way they look very similar to water efficient models, you are flushing five gallons of water, in some cases seven gallons, as opposed to one gallon each time.
Maybe if our neighbors knew that a five gallon flush toilet could cost $100 more per year under the new system they would have chosen an upgrade. Also, if your toilet is leaking you can check this by putting food coloring in the toilet box and without flushing the toilet, see if the bowl turns to the box color; if so, the toilet is leaking and should be addressed. This should be done over 10 or 15 minutes
Government should be for the benefit of everyone and not at the excessive expense of anyone. During the next year steps should be taken to help educate those who had excessive bills and help them know in the future how to lessen them. After hearing about my neighbors "living a monkish lifestyle ... and still having a large sewer use bill" something should be done for them. They did not intend on using additional water. They just did not know. Had they known how to check and/or save with fixture upgrades the larger water use bills would not have happened.
I am also aware of a family of four who had a leaking toilet that was unknown to them. I helped them to discover this fact after hearing they had a sewer use fee in excess of $1,500.
I also read a comment that larger new houses use more water. That is usually not the case. Water use is based upon the number of residents using water.
A family of four with one toilet and a shower will flush/shower as much as a family of four with two toilets and two showers. Newer structures are also built to the new building codes that require efficient fixtures.
All things being equal it is the older homes with fixtures built to a lesser efficiency codes or none at all that tend to use more water, even if the plumbing is in good repair.
If the way we tax can be changed from a flat fee to a use fee there should be room for an interim-year method. Had our neighbors known they would have had excessive water use and expenses, surely they would have done something to avoid the expense and saved our resources.
Maybe a cap should be placed on how much of a fee can be charged this year, with the understanding that repairs would be made in those homes. Another alternative could be to give a credit to those with excessive amounts that take into consideration repairs being made and/or new more efficient fixtures being installed.
There are many ways to make the conversion of tax systems equitable and fair to all.