BY DANIEL OFFNER
Residents throughout the five boroughs will see a 3.24 percent increase on next year’s water bills, if the City Water Board approves a proposed rate hike from the Department of Environmental Protection – the agency’s lowest increase in a decade.
“By implementing effective cost controls, refinancing higher interest debt and reducing the rental payment, we are able to deliver the lowest rate increase in a decade, and the 25 percent of single family homeowners who use the least water will not receive any increase at all,” DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd said in a statement. “In addition, we have put together a package of initiatives to provide relief to nearly 50,000 additional low-income, senior and disabled customers.”
As a result, water and sewage bills for an average single-family homeowner will increase from approximately $1,025 to $1,058 a year – less than $3 a month for residents with an average consumption of 80,000 gallons a year.
The proposed rate increase for the 2016 fiscal year is .11 percent less than last year, when Queens elected officials and civic leaders protested a proposed 3.35 percent increase, citing years of increased rates in the double-digits.
In 2013, then-New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio criticized then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg for a 5.6 percent water rate hike, calling it “unjustified,” and demanding that City Hall release key documents to determine if revenue from the water system was being diverted to pad the City’s general budget.
“For decades, the water system only charged customers what it needed to cover its costs,” de Blasio said in a statement. “But now, anyone who pays a water bill is sending more and more of their money into the City’s general budget. It’s wrong and it has to stop.”
However, when reached for comment, a City Hall spokesperson referred to Lloyd’s statement.
The DEP argues that the rate proposal for the 2016 fiscal year is a whopping 34 percent lower than originally projected, because of cost-savings initiatives that were implemented to keep the rate as low as possible.
According to the agency, the proposed 3.24 percent increase is the result of lower interest rates, strong revenue projections, operational cost savings and revenue carried over from 2014. The City will also return 20 percent – or $41 million – of the 2015 fiscal year rental payments to help fund the water and sewer system.
In addition to the rate hike, the DEP is proposing to freeze the minimum water charge of $1.27 for customers using less than 100 gallons per day, expand the Home Water Assistance Program for 12,500 qualifying low-income homeowners, implement an online billing system and increase credits for the lead and copper monitoring program.
The City Water Board will hold five public hearings – one in each Borough – to discuss the DEP proposal. On April 30, the board will hold a hearing at LaGuardia Community College, 45-50 Van Dam St., at 7 p.m.
Following the public hearings, members of the Water Board will vote on May 8, to adopt the new rates, which will take effect July 1.
Reach Daniel Offner at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @DanielOffner.