Skyrocketing sewer tax shocks unsuspecting Rotterdam homeowners

New England

ROTTERDAM, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Major sticker shock hitting Rotterdam homeowners like a ton of bricks as soon as they opened 2022’s tax bill. Steve Reutter says in the 50 years he’s had his home, his sewer tax always stayed around the same. Suddenly, what he got in Tuesday’s mail is more than $2,000 compared to around $200 last year.

“I says, it’s gotta be a mistake, and then when my daughter across the street said hers went up the same thing and the lady across the street said hers went up the same thing,” he says to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.

He also says his daughter, a first time homeowner, was brought to tears over the sudden, unexpected expense.

“How can you justify that big of a jump? You know, at once? I mean everybody in this district here or whatever the water or sewer district is, did they raise everybody up that much?” Reutter says he’d like to ask town leadership.

In fact, all 110 or so residents of Rotterdam‘s sewer District 2 got similar surprises in their tax bills. The newly elected and sworn in town leadership, including the deputy and town supervisors, say it’s a result of a resolution passed by the previous administration.

Back on December 7, the town got back an audit from the New York Office of the State Comptroller that found operations and maintenance costs weren’t reflected correctly in residents bills. This was the explanation given at the December 8 board meeting.

“The debt service was not being fully isolated from the operations and maintenance in the way that it was being reflected in the tax bill,” said Beth Greenwood, the town’s director of finance. “The actual costs for things haven’t changed. It’s purely a methodology in terms of the accounting that we have just literally picked apart all these lines in the budget to ensure that we are accounting for the tax portion as tax and the utility cost, that O&M (operations and maintenance) cost, as a utility cost.”

Greenwood gave a further breakdown specifically of District 2, explaining there’s approximately $1,500,000 in costs to operate the district and its extensions. She also says there are 3927.08 units measured out and distributed between the properties in that area.

“I have no idea how you get a .08 unit, I’ve asked that question myself, but I was told this was set in terms of units sometimes it’s based on a grease trap or the number of bathrooms or this that. So and then we take the amount, basically the amount we need to raise and we divided it by the units and we find that it will cost each unit in sewer District 2, $384.95 for the operations and maintenance of that sewage,” she detailed.

The current administration says the problem with that is the previous board and supervisor also corrected an error in how property units were assigned and didn’t communicate the change to District 2 residents. So instead of Reutter paying the about $385 for one unit allotted to his property like he did before, he’s now expected to pay for 110 units based on his property’s frontage.

“I expected it to go up two or three or four or five percent, but this has got to be over 800 percent, I’m guessing. I’m retired. I get Social Security and that’s it. This is definitely shocking,” he says.

The town says they’re working to notify residents but the tax they see is correct. There will also be another operations and maintenance cost coming in June for water.

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