After months of battling with mayor Andre Sayegh’s administration over the sewer utility, the City Council late last week adopted a measure to bill residential users using a flat rate system.
Previously, all sewer users, including residential, were billed based on water usage. Under the flat-rate system residential users from 1-4 family homes will be charged a stable fee per year billed over four quarters.
Below are the annual residential sewer rates:
- One-family will pay $359
- Two-family will pay $682
- Three-family will pay $970
- And four-family will pay $1,293, according to the ordinance approved last Thursday.
Non-residential users will continue to be billed using a mix of meter size and water usage.
Council president Flavio Rivera said the new flat rate system will ensure there are no surprises for homeowners.
Council members voted 6-2 to approve the flat billing system. Many of them blamed Sayegh and his business administrator Kathleen Long for bungling the sewer reforms that led to massive increases for some users and sparked a protest.
“The problem was with the administration and the way they rolled it out,” councilwoman Maritza Davila. “I think this is the best route to take.”
“It was a disaster from the beginning,” said councilman Alex Mendez. Some sewer users saw their bills skyrocket by 100 or 1,000 percent after the botched sewer reforms.
Sayegh’s team failed to bill some large users such as school buildings and some Passaic County-owned buildings when it rolled out the system. It also had to correct some erroneous bills that were sent to sewer users.
“The administration completely dropped the ball with this thing and residents were paying more,” added councilman Michael Jackson.
“The presentation the administration gave us was a promising one, but it turned into a nightmare for our city,” said councilman Luis Velez.
Velez was referring to presentations given by Sayegh’s then-chief of staff Long. Council members have accused her of misleading them through the sewer presentations.
Some users will see increases under the revised system.
“On one side there is going to be some reductions and on the other side there will be some increases,” said councilwoman Lilisa Mimms.
Councilwoman Ruby Cotton said she preferred the water usage-based billing system.
Davila, Jackson, Shahin Khalique, Mendez, Velez, and Rivera voted in favor of the flat-rate system while Cotton and Mimms voted against.
Former school board Member Errol Kerr thanked the council for approving the flat-rate system. He said his bill went up 200% after the mayor’s sewer reforms.
“I got zapped,” said Kerr. “I hope this will take care of our issue.”
New rates are applied retroactively to January 1, 2021, according to the adopted ordinance.
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