“Budgets contained revenue estimates that were not realistic and included insufficient water rates to fund operations,” the audit says.
The Comptroller’s Office said in the review that Black Brook should review rates annually and increase them if necessary, maintain accurate budget estimates and have a multi-year financial plan for the special districts.
A lot of their problems were due to constant repairs to leaks in the aging system, Aubin said.
“We have been trying to pin down our expenses and get those under control before we even looked at our rates. And we did. Instead of contracting out repairs, we do it in-house now. Every time we had a leak, we had to get somebody to dig it up. We were paying contractor rates. We don’t have to do that anymore.”
Doing their own system repairs is saving a lot of money, he said.
“A lot of things went on behind the scenes that the audit didn’t cover. We’re still trying to find things to improve it (the water systems) and get the financial aspects under control.”
The water and sewer systems were also heavily damaged by tropical storms Irene and Lee in 2011, he noted, and Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursement for those repairs is coming slowly.
“You’re dealing with an old, old system, and the storms didn’t help us any. We weren’t taking in enough money to pay the bills, and we did increase rates with both sewer and water.”
The water rates were raised from $37.50 to $50 a quarter for the first 15,000 gallons, then from $2 to $2.50 for every 1,000 gallons above that.
Sewer charges went from $61.25 to $81.25 a quarter for a single-family home, and rates for businesses and multiple-family dwellings were also increased.
Black Brook’s response to the audit, written by Town Supervisor Ricky Nolan, also said they were involved in litigation with the Town of Jay over the sewer plant, which cost them $25,000 in legal fees. Jay withheld its share of operating costs, which Black Brook had to make up, as well, he said.