State grant’s impact unclear

Funding expected to relieve sewer users

The town of Jaffrey could see approximately $432,000 in state aid grant monies as early as this October. But exactly how that grant money will benefit taxpayers and sewer users remains unclear, according to town officials.

The N.H. Department of Environmental Services held an informational meeting on July 16 for municipalities awarded funds through the state aid grant program, which typically pays for one-third the costs of wastewater, public drinking water and landfill closure projects.

While the state’s payment timeline became more clear following last week’s meeting, Jaffrey Select Board Chair Don MacIsaac said by phone last week that it’s too early to say how receipt of the grant could impact taxes and sewer rates. “It’s good news. I just can’t tell you what the good news is going to be,” he said.

The state dramatically reduced funding for the state aid grant program in recent years, and deferred its payment of a $6 million grant to Jaffrey and a $4 million grant to Peterborough. Although the grant program has remained active, the state has continued to fund only those projects approved before October 2008 and already receiving grant monies at that time, according to MacIsaac. As a result, local taxpayers and sewer users were left paying the difference. This year, the state restored funding to the grant program, and allocated about $1.3 million for the towns of Jaffrey and Peterborough in the 2014-2015 state budget.

Peterborough’s Town Administrator Pam Brenner told the Ledger-Transcript on July 1 that Peterborough’s sewer rates were scheduled to increase 12 percent on July 1, but with state aid grant funding restored the sewer rate will remain level.

Because Peterborough is on a fiscal year budget cycle, MacIsaac said the pieces of the puzzle are coming together quicker for Peterborough than Jaffrey. “We don’t set our sewer rates until January,” he said.

Like many towns that expected to receive state aid grant funding and then had that funding deferred , Jaffrey refinanced its loan to help pay for the town’s new wastewater treatment facility, said Town Manger Dave Caron on Monday. As a result of the widespread refinancing, he said, the state must now review its financing schedule, too. Jaffrey will not receive its $6 million grant in one lump sum, but rather over the next couple of decades in yearly payments .

Jaffrey sewer rates have doubled since 2007, and projections were for 4 to 5 percent annual increases in the years to come, without the state aid grant in place. Whether or not the sewer rate could level off now is yet to be determined, according to town officials.

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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