It seems like every time you turn around, utility rates are going up. With the economy slowly recovering, several municipalities around the state are still dealing with a two percent property tax cap.

Over in Stafford Township, a recent hike in water and sewer isn’t sitting well with residents and business owners alike.

Residents are now paying an additional $20 each quarter for sewer service and another $25 each quarter for water service. Township Administrator James Moran explains there hasn’t been a rate increase since 2005 and the new pricing had to be implemented due to their own rising costs, a population explosion and a series of infrastructure upgrades and improvements.

Moran says “because we have a municipal run water and sewer department, we have had to make upgrades for years to deal with the increasing demand. We hadn’t raised the rates before and this is why people are feeling squeezed. We are currently working on a 7 to 10 year rate study for the future. There will be increases but we want to lessen the impact moving forward.”

Municipal officials have said it is needed in order to offset a $75 million bond debt associated with capital improvement projects implemented over the past decade. The municipal water company was formed in 2001 at a then-estimated annual savings of $270,000. Rates were almost immediately lowered. In 2005, ratepayers saw an almost $10 annual rate hike based on usage amounts. Since that time, things have remained totally static. That is until now. Many residents were angry that there wasn’t better notification.

Moran explains, “We sent letters to everyone in town and also talked about this during our town hall meetings. We have to start from here and move forward. We feel it may have been better if we kept the increases going the last few years instead of springing it on so quick. That’s why we’re having that study done.”

The utility grew from 7,498 customers in 2000 to more than 11,800 customers in 2010. That number continues to increase as more homes are built in and around the Ocean Acres development.

Moran adds with the economy recovering at a snail’s pace, we can expect more of the same on a statewide level.