Erie County's Huron Sewer District has 3,270 businesses and residences that have gone without a rate hike since February 2006, even though the district is $10 million in debt and can't meet operating expenses.
County officials say that will soon change, although most homeowners won't pay more right away.
Erie County Commissioners will likely consider a series of proposed fee increases at their meeting next Thursday.
Commissioners said they're prepared to hike revenues to make the district's books balance.
"Obviously, we can't run that district on a deficit," commissioner Bill Monaghan said.
There is one bit of good news for homeowners in the Huron Sewer District.
Jack Meyers, the county's sanitary engineer, had talked about eliminating the "third-quarter sewer credit," which is given to homeowners to offset increases in water usage for watering lawns in warmer months. The credit saves a homeowner about $30 each fall.
Huron city officials showed up at last week's commission meeting to complain because county officials had been discussing elimination of the credit without consulting Huron first.
Commissioner Pat Shenigo said he opposes taking away the third-quarter credit this year.
"It's late in the game," Shenigo said. "I think it's something we can look at next year."
"We're probably not going to do something this year," he said.
But there's also another consideration.
Meyers said he discovered the third-quarter credit -- part of a 1982 agreement between Huron and the county -- can't be modified without Huron's consent.
Meyers said he'll submit a resolution early next week asking commissioners to approve changes affecting septic tank owners, restaurants and people with swimming pools.
Meyers wants to hike septic fees from $50 to $70 for 2,000 gallons, raise disposal fees for 2,000 gallons of restaurant grease from $85 to $120, and eliminate the pool sewer credit for water that goes into swimming pools.
He also wants to save manpower by no longer requiring workers to hang shutoff notices on customers' doors.
"I'm in agreement with all of these rules," Monaghan said.
He and Shenigo pointed out, however, that Meyers did not provide estimates on how much money the changes would bring to the county.
Even so, any fee increases won't end the sewer district's need for revenue.
Meyers said at some point, he'll recommend a general rate increase.
The Huron Sewer District includes Huron and Huron Township. It includes residents and businesses in Huron city and along West Cleveland Road, Boos Road, Rye Beach Road and in Mariner Village, said Andrea Waldron, assistant finance director for Environmental Services.
The last rate increase in the district was in February 2006, Waldron said.
Improvements in the sewer district have increased its debt to $10 million. Current expenses are also a problem.
"We can't even pay our bills," Waldron said. "We can't cover operating costs."
Customer payments provide about $1.5 million of revenue each year. To break even, the district needs almost $300,000 in new revenues, with even more money needed if the county wants to maintain a decent cash balance.
The sewer district's cash balance at the end of last year was $266,000.