Politicians and residents are worried that another year of swelling water bills will leave denizens drowning.
For the 16th consecutive year, New York City residents will be paying more for their water bill if the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) proposed rate increase is adopted.
Assemblymember David Weprin called the hikes “déjà vu all over again,” comparing them to an additional property tax.
“Our proposed seven percent rate increase is the lowest increase in seven years and shows that DEP is doing everything in our power to try and keep rates in check while still delivering a product that city residents can take pride in every time they turn on the tap,” said DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland. “Though any rate increase is difficult in these economic conditions, we are clearly moving in the right direction.”
The seven percent hike will add more than $60 per year to the average one-family home’s water bill.
“When an agency is proud that you only have to raise your rates by seven percent, then we know we have a problem,” said Assemblymember Phil Goldfeder during a sparsely-attended public hearing on the rate hikes at Christ the King High School on Thursday, April 26.
Goldfeder authored a bill to cap annual water rate increases at four percent a year for cities with populations over 1 million.
A Weprin-sponsored bill, also in the Assembly, would limit increases to no more than five percent annually, or the rate of inflation.
A DEP representative at the hearing said that capping increases was not an option because of the many costs that are beyond the agency’s control.
The DEP blamed much of the rate hikes on mandated projects from the state and federal government that require the agency to perform projects despite receiving no funds.
This fiscal year, those mandates cost homeowners $253, according to the DEP.
Edward Schubert, an Ozone Park resident who bought a house in the neighborhood in 2005, was one of the few residents to speak at the hearing.
“The middle class is really suffering right now,” Schubert told the water board. “It’s the wrong time for these increases.”
In the seven years since moving into his house, Schubert has seen his water rates almost double.
The seven-member water board, appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, will vote on the increase on Friday, May 4. If approved, it will go into effect on July 1.
“There has to come a time where even a city agency or a board of mayoral appointees says ‘I think we’ve pushed out citizens a little too far,” said Councilmember Dan Halloran. “Maybe it’s time to give them a break for a change.”