RVSA budget socks Kenilworth again

The RVSA facility in Rahway is a 40-million-gallon per day wastewater treatment facility.

KENILWORTH, NJ — The borough is about to receive a seven-figure bill for treatment of its waste water, and its commissioner to the Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority is concerned the town is being overcharged.
The $1.05 million bill will represent about 4.1 percent of the RVSA’s budget during its metering year, which ran from October 2017 to September 2018.

The 2019 budget was tentatively approved at the RVSA’s Jan. 17 meeting, but still must be approved by the New Jersey Division of Local Government Services before the commissioners from the 11 municipalities that comprise the RVSA board can adopt the budget. That’s likely to occur at its Feb. 21 meeting.

Kenilworth’s Robert Beiner, who was appointed to the RVSA board last February, said he was the only commissioner at the meeting to vote against the proposed budget.

“I voted no because we think we’re being overbilled,” Beiner said. “We think we were overbilled last year and overbilled this year.”
Last year, Kenilworth was billed about $900,000, or 5.6 percent of the RVSA budget. The $900,000 represented more than 5 percent of Kenilworth’s $16.7 million municipal budget.

In 2017, the borough paid $700,000, or 5.3 percent of the RVSA budget. The two years preceding that, the numbers were 2.6 percent and 2.3 percent, respectively.

Since the bill is based on a five-year rolling average, Kenilworth faces a hefty bill this year although its share of the budget dropped by about 27 percent from the previous metering year.

Beiner said that the RVSA acknowledges there is “some fluctuation” in the numbers.
“The problem is our numbers are unlike all the other towns,” Beiner said. “We have massive fluctuations. Two years ago it doubled from the previous year, then last year it went up, then it was 25 percent less than the previous year.

Beiner argued that because of the “massive volatility,” Kenilworth’s 2016 and 2015 numbers should be thrown out, but “obviously they didn’t do that.”
Created in 1951, the RVSA is a 35-acre wastewater treatment plant in Rahway that currently serves 11 municipalities, about 250,000 residents and 3,500 commercial users. Its board is comprised of one representative from Kenilworth, Clark, Cranford, Garwood, Mountainside, Rahway, Roselle Park, Scotch Plains, Springfield, Westfield and Woodbridge. Winfield Park and portions of Fanwood and Linden are also connected into the system, but are not members of the cooperative.

The RVSA board is charged with the responsibility of passing yearly budgets and determining how the municipalities should be billed. The billing methodology has to be agreed upon by every board representative for it to be effective.

The RVSA looked at its billing method to see if it would benefit Kenilworth if a seven-year billing range were used. Beiner said that’s not likely to be adopted because five other commissioners would have to vote to do so.

Beiner said he hopes there is some proof the borough has been overcharged. He said new meters installed by the RVSA during the summer showed Kenilworth’s daily amount of sewage was about half of what it had been in the weeks leading up to the meters’ installation.

He said “the variance was so out of whack” that the RVSA hired a third party to install another meter to check the new ones. He hopes to have the results of those tests next month.

“Then, I can compare October, November, December to last year’s number,” Beiner said. “If our number is closer to 3 (percent of the budget) than 4, I’m going to go crazy and say there’s proof that the previous meters are bogus.”