City Council split on water rate increases


Two City Council measures to increase Glen Cove’s water rates failed to get the four votes necessary to pass at a June 26 meeting. The competing resolutions — a 25 percent hike proposed by Mayor Tim Tenke, and a 15 percent hike proposed by Councilwoman Pamela Panzenbeck — aimed to address debt service payments, which will become due in January 2019, related to the city’s recent borrowing to install filters on the city’s Freon-contaminated wells.

Because of the water department’s quarterly billing schedule, if the council can’t agree on a rate hike by its July 24 meeting, the city will have to wait three more months before implementing increases, missing out on the extra revenue in the meantime.

While Panzenbeck’s 15 percent hike would have covered the January debt service payment, it would have fallen approximately $13,000 short of covering projected payments on a second set of well-related borrowing that Tenke said the city will have to undertake next year. The 25 percent proposal would have covered both rounds of debt service, and left the city with a $267,000 surplus in the water fund.

“To hit the taxpayers with a 25 percent increase is a little bit unfair,” Panzenbeck said. “I’d rather 15 percent, and if we need, revisit it next year.”

For consumers the difference would have meant $3 more a month for the average ratepayer under Panzenbeck’s plan and $5 more a month under Tenke’s.

The mayor said that the second round of borrowing was essentially a sure thing, because the city had already sunk a substantial amount of money into improvements at the Seaman Road well.

Councilman Joseph Capobianco said that he thought there was a chance that an increase in the number of rate-payers — brought on by the potential of new residents moving into the city’s various new developments — could generate the revenue that Tenke was hoping to cover with his 25 percent hike. “I’m not so certain that if we raised the rates 15 percent this year that we’d have to raised them next year,” he said, adding, “I’m reluctant to increase anything.”

Tenke’s proposed 25 percent hike was a reduction from the 35 percent that had been brought up at a pre-council meeting the week before. At the same meeting, Panzenbeck had discussed the possibility of a 15 percent hike instead, although she didn’t officially introduce it as an agenda item until just before the vote.

The last minute addition caused some confusion. City Clerk Tina Pemberton and City Attorney Charles McQuair held a brief private discussion, apparently about how to proceed. They decided to vote on Panzenbeck’s resolution first, and then Tenke’s. Both failed.

Silverman added that the situation was “a perfect example,” of why the city needs a multi-year plan that tracks and projects the city’s revenues and expenses.