Winamac Municipal Utilities customers will soon see a new charge on their water bills. The town council adopted a Public Fire Protection Surcharge to offset the cost of maintaining the hydrants and ensuring adequate water pressure. Eric Walsh with accounting firm Umbaugh and Associates says it will allow the town to shift the cost from property taxes to a user fee of $6.65 per month for residential customers. Industrial customers with larger water meters would pay more.
Walsh says cities and towns across Indiana are feeling the pinch when it comes to their budgets due to a combination of things, including stagnant or declining revenues and the circuit breaker, which limits the amount of taxes that can be collected. As a result, he says locally controlled rates and fees are being used to make up the shortfall.
The $120,000 in property tax money that currently pays for hydrant upkeep and maintenance can be used for other things. Walsh says that will go a long way toward making up the shortfall the town is facing. He notes last year they had to make significant reductions in order to keep the budget in balance. Had they not, he says the town would have had a budget shortfall of $140,000. The ordinance to set the fire protection surcharge passed unanimously Monday night.