Frantantoni: Mayor Melham’s Excuse for Water Bill Hike Doesn’t Hold Water

Mayor Melham says Belleville has been running a deficit with Newark for water services, so rates needed to be hiked. The municipal budget says otherwise.

Tireless community advocate Vinnie Frantantoni has stepped up once again to challenge Mayor Melham and the Council on pushing an obscene water rate hike on Belleville residents without any warning.

Residents and business owners are reporting that they’re now being hit with both property tax hikes as well as a shocking 200-300% increase in the cost of their quarterly water bills from the Council.

In a letter mailed with the new water bill, the Mayor claims the Township has somehow been operating at a loss for water services from Newark, and that water bills must be raised to “pay back the City of Newark $1.6M in back water payments”.

Despite being in office for two and a half years at this point, yet again Melham attempts to lay the blame on “the prior administration”. Mind you, four of the councilmembers sitting right next to him have collectively been in office for the last 15 years.

Here is a copy of Mayor Melham’s letter to residents:
October Water Bill Letter

In his rebuttal letter below, Mr. Frantantoni calls out Mayor Melham on his questionable justification for the rate hike, and explains how the Township’s own municipal budget data and ironically the new CFO’s own words completely discredit Melham’s claim by indicating an ongoing substantial surplus of revenue for water services…not a deficit.

Once again Mayor Melham spews untruths. Melham claims we are getting huge water bill increases because we are paying Newark more than we take in from our water bills. UNTRUE!

According to our Municipal budget, in 2019 the Township received $4,473,699 from our water bills. As per the budget we paid Newark $3,444,025 in 2019, for a surplus of $1,029,674.

In the 2020 budget, the anticipated revenue from water bills is also $4,473,699. WITHOUT a rate increase. The amount anticipated to pay Newark is $3,660,000 PLUS $391,161 for back bills for a total of $4,051,161. A surplus of $422,538.

The water budget also shows another $960,000 added to the water budget. When I asked the CFO where that money came from, she said it came from the SURPLUS account in the water department.

Melham blames the prior administration for all his problems, but perhaps he did not notice that four members of the prior administration are sitting right next to him.

A 15%-20% rate increase may be justified, but NOT 200-300% increases. BIG SPENDER Melham took over with a $64 million municipal budget and in TWO short years he has increased it to $71 million.

Stay tuned for more of Melham’s onerous spending policies.

Vincent J. Frantantoni

Editor’s Note: The Watch is actively investigating this action by the Council. We will update everyone when further details can be shared.

In the meantime, the next public meeting of the Belleville Council will be held next Tuesday Oct 27th at 6:00 PM. It will be held in the Belleville High School auditorium, which safely seats 150 citizens under current COVID guidelines.

Bring a mask, and let Mayor Melham and the Council know how you feel about their outrageous property taxes and water rate hikes on Belleville families struggling during an economic recession.

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Lee "Griff" Dorry - Founder, watchdog, and public advocate. ♫ They've got strings, but you can see, there are no strings on me. ♫