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The times we live in are challenging enough. That is why the proposed 12.9 percent hike in city water rates is unbearable. The proposed hike comes one year after a 14.5 percent hike last July. The average annual bill for a one−family home under the 12.9 percent increase is projected to be $911, up from $779 at the current rate.
Surely this is a disguised tax increase to unfairly burden the middle class?
These increases add up and the burden grows heavier on the backs of working families. In fact, the city Department of Environmental Protection increased the salaries of some of its workers by 35 percent.
The hike, planned for July, is unfair. The city gets $200 million per year from water revenue to add to its general funds. Instead of counting its blessings, the DEP appears to be penalizing homeowners for conserving water by imposing a surcharge on payments while raising the salaries of some of its workers.
The double−digit annual increases are unsustainable. Soon homeowners will be unable to pay for essential services and supplies.
When will the middle class and working families get a break? Why a 13 percent increase? The DEP must show its customers consideration rather than jumping on the bandwagon of greed.
To keep costs under control, the DEP must curb waste, theft and mismanagement. It should go after water freeloaders. Some rogue plumbers roll water meters backward. The DEP is to blame in some circumstances because it does not audit the previous months’ bills and demand the water thieves account for negative usage. Negative rollbacks should trigger an audit and investigation of the relevant meters.
The DEP should also check the city development sites that steal water illegally by opening fire hydrants with hoses hooked up to them, surreptitiously leading behind the construction fences to the buildings. The result is theft for prolonged periods from multiple sites at the same time. New construction permits should trigger site visits.
Apart from the fact that it is easy to identify property owners who use water without paying, the DEP owes a duty to its 832,000 customers to go after these culprits and ease the projected 13 percent rate increases by inflicting additional fees and penalties on them.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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