It is useful to offer a narrative to accompany the budget to tell the story behind the numbers. There is much more on the activity of the WPCA at the brookfieldwpca.org website.
Operations Staff and Building:
The WPCA has tripled in the number of customers and infrastructure over the last 15 years, doubled in the last 7-years. It also has all responsibility for its finances, including payroll. Last year another fulltime field staff position was added. In 2018 a new part-time director position position was filled. The responsiblities for the volunteer board have incrased substantially over the past several years with system growth.
Additional revenue from growth has covered the cost of added staff in 2019. In 2018 the commission purchased an operations center at 53A Commerce Road. The two-story building includes 2500 sqft of office space, a storage mezzanine and 500 sqft of unfinished area. This allowed all employees to be co-located. The office building is financed with a 25-year conventional mortgage.
The commission has seven volunteer members. Most have served for several years. There is be one opening on the WPCA board.
As to outside services, the commission uses engineering, accounting, legal and other support services as needed. The engineering firm has quite a bit of depth, serving several states. Their work includes maintaining and upgrading the sewer layer on the town Geographical Information System (GIS). The commission attorney has served the Brookfield WPCA for more than 20 years providing expertise in land use issues. He also has a valuable depth of corporate memory. The accounting firm, Bliss Allred and Company, has served the WPCA for 5 years. The WPCA accounting system routinely has been complimented by Town auditors.
Several important improvement projects were undertaken last year. These included repair of lines in the industrial area at Commerce Road, valving repairs for safety, and improvements in station electronic monitoring.
The Route 133 Pump Station is about to undergo significant upgrade to accommodate growth in the Town Center District. The upgrade will begin with a new road access and automatic gate and will be coordinated with the development of the “Corn Field” property.
There were two Clean Water Fund (CWF) grants to take advantage of Federal funds. These grants were awarded in May 2019.
1) Facilities Plan took an extensive look at current operations and examine costs 5 and 10 years in the future to 2030. A Planning Study is required by State Statue. It is a $300,000 program with 55% grant monies being returned. The Facilities Plan due May 2020 is too late to digest for this budget cycle.
2) Candlewood Lake Studies. This involved a study of the influence of septic contamination of the lake from the Brookfield watershed. The study captured current situation and proposes ways to reduce e-coli, phosphorus, nitrogen and PFAS contamination. This $320,000 study is also subject to a 55% CWF grant from the CT DEEP. Details of the investigations can be seen online at https://brookfieldwpca.org/candlewood
3) Study the viability of capturing septic system outfall for ninety-one 1950-era homes along the Still River on Dean and Pocono Roads. This study is in cooperation with the Housatonic Valley Association with a specific focus on the Still River watershed. No grant monies were awarded for this effort. It is due to be completed June 2020.
The WPCA Enterprise:
The WPCA Enterprise Fund accounting is fully separated from the Town and on a full accrual accounting basis. Nevertheless, the WPCA is included as a fiscally independent business activity in the Town audit. This arrangement is in place since 2010 at the request of the Office of the Controller and Auditors in keeping with government Enterprise Fund accounting rules.
Unrestricted funds are broken down into Operating and Capital. This is a budgeting and reporting method useful to the Commission to monitor finances.
The sewer usage fee was set in June 2012 at $380 per unit per year to fully cover increasing depreciation and Danbury treatment fees. (A household is one unit.) The usage fee increased to $420 per unit in June 2017. This 10.5% jump amounted to about 2% annual increase over the previous 5-year span. This rate still allows sustainable operations, including the ability to make minor infrastructure upgrades to accommodate the upkeep and growth in system use. No rate increase was instituted this year. However, a rate increase is likely within a year to cover operations in subsequent years.
Cost of Operations by Flow:
At the end of 2018 and 2019 there were 3600 units producing approximately 320,000 gallons per day (0.32MGD). There was a 7% increase with the addition of Town Center District buildings and Oak Meadow Town Homes over previous years. Last year new customers partially offset a loss of revenue from the lost businesses, mostly in the Town Center. But the customer count has actually declined for the last two years as economic activity in our region has fallen. The largest decline in chargeable units is due to the closure of the Siemens operation. Other lost coustomers include many eateries that have closed permanently in the aftermath of the coronavirus.
This loss is likely to be partially offset with the new Branson facility and others starting up sometime in 2020. This situation puts a strain on the budget with rising employee and operations costs.
All sanitary wastewater flow is sent to the Regional Danbury Waste Treatment plant under the supervision of the CT DEEP and by an InterLocal agreement with Danbury. The agreement allows a flow from Brookfield of up to 500,000 gallons per day. But this is slated to be increased to 550,000 gallons per day in 2022 by verbal agreement with the Danbury Mayor. There will be new Phosphorous mitigation requirments imposed on the Dabury Waste Treatment Plant.
The Danbury Plant expansion will cost Brookfield a projected $4,000,000. This upgrade does not qualify for grants. The cost is normally the subject of 20-year loans by the state at 2% interest.
For the WPCA to cover Brookfield’s engineering cost share an additional $44 per use unit per year was collected as a “Plant Charge” to partially generate the needed funds. These funds are isolated in a separate account.
Two rate increases were implemented in June 2017. One a permanent increase for operations of $40 per unit, from $380 to $420 per unit as discussed above. In the current FY, the operation is projected to run at close to breakeven funded partially with excess funds from prior years. This coming fiscal year is projected at a breakeven level again.
The supplemental rate increase of $44 per unit was implemented to cover the anticipated bill to the Town of Brookfield for Danbury Plant engineering fees. This increase is billed as a surcharge to the usage bill for four billing events this year and next. Any excess or shortfall will have to be covered by increases in use fees needed to cover the approximately $2 million additional for the Brookfield portion of the Danbury Plant expansion which is slated to be operational in the year 2022.
Customer sewer rates are based on a “Unit” charge to fund operations one option provided for by State Statute. Each household is one unit. Commercial establishments all have a formula to determine the usage rate according to WPCA Rules and Regulations. The Commission is explored charging by water usage for commercial customers. This strategy will require commercial customers to install a water meter which is cumbersome and costly to implement as only a small fraction of commerical customers are on city water.
The operating budget in a simple form can be divided into five categories. See the table below. The Administration category includes outside legal, accounting and audit costs.
In round figures, the Brookfield WPCA has assets of $25 million. The WPCA holds $5.5 million in bonds and loans against 6 discrete sewer districts. This requires a total of $630,000 in debt service, principal and interest, funded by users in each sewer district. Funds to pay each bond note or to make upgrades within each sewer district are kept separate and restricted bank accounts as required by Resolution. User obligations are attached to land records, virtually assuring collection.