Mark calls on Herbst for an explanation of rate hike, criticizes his spending

Democratic First Selectman candidate Martha Jankovic-Mark on Tuesday called for First Selectman Timothy Herbst to explain and to take responsibility for the 34% increase in sewer-use rates that have just gone into effect.

The rates increased to $5.95 per 100 cubic feet, and now are based on all water usage, not just water that actually goes into the sanitary sewers. So water used for lawns, which drains naturally into the ground, and for swimming pools, now is included in water-use calculations charged to sewer users.

“This rate hike is much greater than any other increase in memory, Jankovic-Mark said. “It's going to dramatically increase the out-of-pocket costs of almost all Trumbull residents, and it comes on top of an aggressive record of increasing taxes and spending under the regime of Tim Herbst. “It has to stop.”

Overall town spending under Herbst has also soared, with an aggregated four-year spending increase of nearly $20 million, or 13 percent, on a total budget of $160 million. Non-education spending has increased even more, at a rate of more than 17 percent.

On top of that, pay-to-participate fees charged to families of school students engaged in sports are the second highest in the state under Herbst's tenure. Forty-four school districts charge pay-to-participate fees. Trumbull's fee of $250 per sport is second only to Tolland ($275 per sport).

“Tim Herbst talks a good game on fiscal management, but his record doesn't match the results,” Jankovic-Mark said. “On the contrary, he appears not to have control of the town government, instead letting spending increases and special interests roll forward unchecked.”

On the sewer rate hikes, Jankovic-Mark said statements made by the Herbst-appointed Water Pollution Control Authority have also been troubling. The commission chairwoman, Karen Egri, said in local media that the increase just reflects an inherited increase. Another WPCA commissioner stated, "This won't stop. It's going to keep on going up.”

“I reject this dismissive attitude,” Jankovic-Mark said. “As first selectman, I will explore ways to roll back these increases, and charge sewer users for the water that actually enters the system.”

"Over the past three years, the Herbst WPCA has run over budget on the North Nichols sewer project, while the completion of that work has dragged on,” Jankovic-Mark said. “They passed $10 million of that cost on to all Trumbull taxpayers-even those who don't use sewers. This is not responsible management.”

Mark called upon Herbst to immediately proceed with a financial audit of the WPCA.  "The WPCA has been talking about an audit of their books since 2010. Mr. Herbst has called for several audits, but he's stood by silently while his WPCA has procrastinated for three years on an audit of their own books. Enough is enough."