May 21, 2019

Homer underbills Cortlandville for sewer

Oversight cost village $35,000 a year

Cortlandville has been underbilled by the village of Homer about $35,000 each year for more than a decade for its sewer bills, but a town official said the change shouldn’t affect residents.

“There’s enough money budgeted this year for that line to pick up that additional expense,” Cortlandville Supervisor Richard Tupper said.

Homer deputy clerk and treasurer Kristen Case discovered the error in January while doing the quarterly billing statements. Case said she would normally just take the invoice sent by the Cortland Wastewater Treatment Plant and information provided by Cortlandville to figure out how much to bill Cortlandville.

“In January, I asked to see the sewer contract in order to better understand what the figures meant and what the formula was figuring,” Case said in an email. “I discovered that the formula was basically finding who owes what, based on the portion of the sewer line that they use.”

The billing suggested the pipes had cracks, she said, and while meeting with Cortlandville officials, they told her that the amount of sewer line they had running into the village was incorrect.

In 1991 the town had 3,000 linear feet running into the village sewer system, but in 1998 it increased to over 19,000 linear feet. However, the contract between the town and village was never changed.

Case said there’s no way to determine who was at fault.

“The amount that Cortlandville is charged varies depending on quarterly cost, but the percentage of Cortlandville’s share has gone from 4.83 percent to 22.16 percent,” Case said.

The correction of this billing error is the third in the village, Mayor Darren “Hal” McCabe said.

In October 2017, the village found water and sewer billing errors that predated McCabe’s administration. Some residents and businesses had been getting an unintended discount for an undetermined period. Also, the Homer Central School District was billed for its sewer service only sporadically. Those errors were corrected.

“Each one has resulting in significant new revenue coming into the village that we were due,” McCabe said. “Those errors, as well as other issues, are being found because we are going through everything in the village from stem to stern.”

McCabe said the three errors Case found have led to roughly $75,000 extra in revenue.

“… Some of these things are very complex, which is probably why they went uncorrected for so long,” McCabe said.

Case said she is not sure what this could mean for residents.

“I do know that the village has seen a deficit in past years with our sewer account and therefore sewer prices were increased in order to try and break even,” she said. “We no longer need to raise sewer prices.”

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