ROTTERDAM, N.Y. (NEWS10) — It’s been a week since neighbors between Lilac Street and Pansy Street in Rotterdam opened up their 2022 property tax bills to find they’re being charged thousands of dollars more than usual.

Steve Reutter, a lifelong Rotterdam resident, spoke with NEWS10 as soon as he saw his sewer tax jump from around $200 to more than $2000. He has been waiting patiently, calling and occasionally visiting the Rotterdam Town Hall, but his patience is officially at its limit. Wednesday, he visited again.

“To try to get an answer from somebody about something. I’ve been trying for a week,” he says to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.

NEWS10 has also tried unsuccessfully to connect with town leaders to clarify their initial explanation given January 5. Reutter invited our camera crew to tag along with his town hall visit and get answers together.

“Maybe you guys can get some answers from them. None of the neighbors have, nobody’s gotten nothing. They’re in meetings every time I’ve come here,” he says.

Both Supervisor Mollie Collins and Deputy Supervisor Jack Dodson quickly responded to sit down with Reutter and NEWS10. They say their meetings have been with county legislators and tax authorities trying to nail down how the astronomical spike in sewer taxes happened.

Dodson had originally explained to NEWS10 on January 5 that Rotterdam’s previous board and supervisor had moved to isolate sewer and water tax from sewer and water operations and maintenance in future billing statements. However, at that time they also tried to correct a long standing error in how parcels of land in the Sewer District 2 were measured in single units based on the number of homes on the land, rather than in frontage from the road as had been required by municipal ordinance.

“We don’t have an issue with the attempt that was made to separate these charges. Obviously the issue at this point in time is I think this was done in haste. I think it comes down to making two money moves at the same time,” Dodson says.

He adds further digging also revealed that a sewer improvement project from around 2016 had outstanding debt that the town was meant to begin paying this year. In allocating that cost to residents, the town had mistakenly placed all of it on the residents in Sewer District 2, Extension 1.

“I think they did a couple million dollars worth of improvements at the treatment plant that we are paying debt on, and then whatever the debt that’s associated with that project was assigned to this little sewer district extension instead of the overall district,” Dodson explains.

Therefore, residents in the 15 other extensions in that district were unaffected and Extension 1 residents bore the entire brunt of the cost — all without notice.

“I think [the residents] need to know that this is not something we take lightly, that we understand the hardship that they’re under, and that we will make sure in the future to ensure how it’s going to be billed and if for some reason something should come up again, that they will have notice,” says Supervisor Collins.

For now though, it appears the erroneous 2022 bills are unchangeable. Collins says that’s based on what both legislators and Schenectady County tax authorities have come back with so far.

“It’s hard on everybody and we appreciate that, we really do. We have tried talking to the county. We’ve tried to see if there’s a way we could extend the period without payment or penalty, but that’s illegal is what they’ve told us,” she explains. “We’ve reached out to everyone at the county level we could think of that would have any input on the tax levy to see what we could do, and unfortunately, there was no answer. There’s nothing to be done.”

Collins and Dodson say they have plans to bring changes to future board meetings and prevent the mistake from repeating, as well as propose changing the tax method in Sewer District 2 from fontage measurement to property units.

“We have our own homework to do to ensure that the debt associated with that treatment plant that needs to be assigned only to those sewer districts that flow to the treatment plant, and I’m not so certain that that has been done in an accurate manner at this point. Keep in mind, we’ve been here less than two weeks,” Dodson says.

“For just being in office, for what 10 days I guess or so, she’s [Supervisor Collins] had a tough few days, but now I know that I gotta pay it this year, and it is what it is and I’ve gotta pay this year,” Reutter says.

He says although he finds the mistake unfair, he at least has no hard feelings. Town leaders will take more community questions at Wednesday night’s board meeting at 7 p.m.