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Saugus, MA manager seeks 39% water rate hike

By Chris Stevens
September 10, 2004

SAUGUS -- Town Manager Andrew Bisignani would like to see a water increase back on the table for the special Town Meeting, but the Finance Committee said it wouldn't consider it without more information.

According to Bisignani the town has carried a $700,000 deficit from 2004 into the 2005 budget due to insufficient water rates.

"We can't sustain that," he said. "We might carry it for one year, but we can't carry it again next year. We need to increase the rates."

Finance Committee Chairman Robert Palleschi, however, said Bisignani has not presented any information other than what was shot down at the spring Town Meeting to show the need for an increase.

The Finance Committee met Wednesday where Bisignani broached the subject of drafting a water rate increase article for the fall special Town Meeting.

"I wanted to bring it up for discussion and let the chips fall where they may," Bisignani said.

During the spring Town Meeting, Bisignani asked for a 39 percent water rate increase.

The Finance Committee voted to recommend a 30 percent increase. In the end Town Meeting members took matters into their own hands and approved a 20 percent increase.

Bisignani said the 39 percent increase would have reached the break-even point for the water enterprise account and with the lower rates the account continues to run at a deficit. He said he would like to get back to the 39 percent.

Palleschi said his problem with asking taxpayers for another increase is that Bisignani is yet to show him on paper where the $700,000 deficit is.

"The books haven't been closed (for fiscal 2004) yet," he said. "He did agree to get that information for us and I want to see how 2004 ends up."

Palleschi said the Finance Committee wouldn't likely meet again until those year-end numbers are available.

The Selectmen decided Tuesday Town Meeting would likely happen after the November elections.

Bisignani told Selectmen he would be reluctant to set a date for the meeting prior to closing out the books for 2004 so he knows exactly how much money the town would be getting in state aid.

Bisignani agreed and the board said they would set the date at a future meeting.