Monday, November 07, 2005

Foundering Finances

Chandra Mattingly’s story “Utility faces foundering finances” on the front page of The Register hit a sour note for this utility customer.

I found Ms. Mattingly’s use of the word “foundering” very interesting. According to Webster’s, the word founder means “1. to stumble, fall, or go lame 2. to become stuck as in soft ground; bog down 3. to fill with water and sink; said of a ship 4. to become sick from overeating; used esp. of livestock 5. to break down; collapse; fail.”

I fail to accept the claim that Aurora Sewer and Water Rates are “low.” We have lived in the same Aurora home for 14 years. When we purchased our home, we couldn’t get anyone to tell us what utilities for our home would cost. A former resident of Aurora had warned us the cost of utilities could be nearly as much as our house payment.

We were horrified when we received our second water and sewer bill. It totaled more than $80. We were certain it must be some sort of mistake. It wasn’t a mistake. Today’s water and sewer bill was $102.89. In my opinion, these rates are not low.

As the article stated, Aurora Utilities has been carrying Aurora City expenses for years. I had suspected that. The Utility bill has been a second tax bill.

I have a few suggestions to solve the utility budget crisis.

1. Don’t read all the meters in the same week of the month. Meter reading should take place every business day of the month.

2. Don’t make all utility bills due the same week of the month. Bills should also come due every business day of the month.

3. If you adopt numbers one and two, you can easily reduce your work force by a few employees. Remember, the mission of the utility department is to provide utilities at a reasonable cost, not to provide jobs.

4. Aurora belongs to a Sewer District made up of several municipalities and a major business. I believe private citizen’s are footing too much of the expense related to sewer treatment from the whisky plant. This amounts to corporate welfare. Industry needs to pay for the service they receive.

5. Aurora ought to be looking to purchase gas from a supplier directly. Why do we pay the middle man, Lawrenceburg Gas?

6. The city needs to cover it’s own expenses and not tax it’s citizens indirectly through the Utility company.

As for Ken Gividen’s editorial “Higher taxes dog governor,” when it comes to the property tax issue Mr. Gividen is clueless. Dearborn County has two School Corporations who carry more debt than 90% of Indiana schools. As Mr. Gividen put it himself, this debt is a result of “floating bonds to construct gaudy school buildings.” That 20 percent subsidy in property taxes has allowed local governments to spend 20 percent more than local communities notice. In the long run this 20% subsidy has resulted in overpriced school buildings and other unwise spending by local governments.

Businesses look at much more than the bottom line when they build a factory. They also look at total quality of life and the quality of the work force. Inefficient governments hurt both.

Sadly, Aurora Utilities is not the only thing that is “foundering” in Dearborn County.

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