Chesterton Tribune

Valparaiso leads Duneland towns in efficient sewage disposal

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By KEVIN NEVERS

Sanitary Sewer is a capital intensive, hugely technical municipal service and—on both an absolute and a per capita basis—by far the single most expensive provided by Chesterton, Porter, and Burns Harbor to their residents.

Valparaiso spends considerably less on Sanitary Sewer on a per capita basis than the other three municipalities do, but considerably more than it spends on Parks and Recreation, Police, and Fire.

Consider this measure of the capital intensiveness of Sanitary Sewer. Nearly 84 percent of Chesterton’s total expenditure on Fire daily operations in 2006, and nearly 91 percent of its expenditure on Police daily operations, were consumed by salaries, wages, and benefits. In contrast, the Chesterton Utility spends only 53 percent of its operating fund on the same.

With two exceptions identified by the Chesterton Tribune, property-tax revenues defray no portion of the cost of Sanitary Sewer. User and tap-on fees do.

Total and per capita spending on Sanitary Sewer in 2006:

Chesterton: total $3,334,750; per capita $267.72. Comprised of $2,552,505 for daily operations (per capita $204.92); $505,555 for bonds (per capita $40.59); $218,689 for major purchases (per capita $17.56); and $58,000.35 for infrastructure (per capita $4.66).

Porter: total $2,046,210; per capita $385.13. Comprised of $1,083,599 for daily operations (per capita $203.95); $123,982 for bonds (per capita $23.34); a $799,000 payment to the Chesterton Utility for additional capacity at the wastewater treatment plant (per capita $150.39); and $39,627 in tax increment financing (TIF) funds for sewer repairs (per capita $7.46). The TIF expenditure is the first instance identified by the Tribune of property-tax revenues being used for Sanitary Sewer.

Burns Harbor: total $734,713; per capita $723.86. Comprised of $151,181 for daily operations (per capita $148.95); and $583,531 for bonds (per capita $574.91).

Valparaiso: total $5,744,627; per capita $194.63. Comprised of $4,140,706 for daily operations (per capita $140.29); $1,302,930 for bonds (per capita $44.14); $256,380 in other expenditures (per capita $8.69); and $44,611 from Cumulative Sewer Fund for repairs (per capita $1.51). The Cumulative Sewer expenditure is the second instance identified by the Tribune of property-tax revenues being used for Sanitary Sewer.

Stormwater

For all of the talk about the federally mandated Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System or MS4 program, Stormwater is actually a relatively small line item in any municipality’s annual budget. (Although Chesterton did spend more on Stormwater last year than it did on Fire). In fact, for two municipalities, Porter and Burns Harbor, the Tribune was unable to identify any separate Stormwater expenditure at all in 2006.

This year Porter has established a Stormwater Utility and a user fee to defray the costs associated with MS4. Meanwhile, Burns Harbor Clerk-Treasurer Jane Jordan told the Tribune that, due to its size, Burns Harbor is not required to participate in MS4.

Total and per capita spending on Stormwater in 2006:

Chesterton: total $1,074,771; per capita $86.29. Comprised of $543,507 for MS4 daily operations (per capita $43.63); $529,249.76 for debt service on bonds (per capita $42.49); and $2,014.41 from Cumulative Capital Improvement for a project (per capita 16 cents).

Valparaiso: total $1,868,898; per capita $63.32. Comprised of $720,513 for MS4 daily operations (per capita $24.41); $278,092 for debt service on bonds (per capita $9.42); and $870,292 on projects (per capita $29.49).

 

Posted 9/27/2007