At the Dec. 8 budget meeting of the Holley-Navarre Water System with the board of directors, President of the board Daryl Lynchard said, “Our (HNWS) costs are out of control.” He was right and he didn’t know the half of it.
What he didn’t know was that the executive director and human resources director had unilaterally opted to change the group insurance company and raise the Health Savings Account payments that are used to offset the employee’s deductible and family’s deductible to the tune of $3,000 for a single employee and $6,000 for a family. You can read more about that in our front-page story, but really what it means is that we (members of the water system) just gave every employee a very nice raise of at least $1,500 per person or in some cases $4,500 if they are married with a family. You lose out if you are a single person, which is a shame because you are saving the company money by being single.
The Dec. 15 meeting was contentious, and understandably so. Everyone wanted to know how something like this could happen. When it was all calculated out, it was a difference of $487,000 just in HSA payments alone. Members who were present spoke out against a rate increase of 19 percent proposed by the board in light of the new information. “Why should we pay for your mistake?” asked one member. “He should be fired,” said another. “This is negligence and malfeasance,” a member said.
And yet, at the end of the day, the members are still going to have to pay more. Fairpoint Utilities raised its water rate by 25 percent. Each year, HNWS buys more water from Fairpoint because of growth. Infrastructure projects are requiring money due to an aging and an at-capacity system. New apartment buildings are being erected and subdivisions built – all requiring water service.
The water company has to do something soon and unfortunately, the HSA payments are only a drop in the bucket dollarwise. The board of directors should address the staff problem they have, review the budget line item by line item and trim the fat, ensure all possible revenue is being billed and collected, walk back the benefits for 2016 and become responsible business leaders of HNWS. When this level of ineptitude is displayed for everyone to see, you will never be able to look your members in the face and ask them for a rate increase of 19 percent.