Department Continues to Cite Need for Future Assets
At a meeting of the City Water Board on May 1st, the City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) proposed a 2.31% increase in water and sewer rates for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 despite the continued elimination of the Water Board’s rental payment to the City.
If the proposed rate is approved as is, it will increase the flat rate water and sewer charge from approximately $1,081 to approximately $1,106 per year per apartment (a $2.09 monthly impact) and the average metered bill will increase from $702 to approximately $718 per apartment per year (a $1.33 monthly impact.
Prior to last year’s 2.36% rate increase, water rates had been frozen as a result of the termination of the rental payment. RSA challenged the water rate increase for FY 2017 that would have raised rates 2.1% for apartment building owners, which would have then subsidized a one-time bill credit of $183 for 1-3 family homeowners. Although the Court of Appeals ultimately reversed two lower court rulings that had upheld RSA’s challenge, the Water Board voted on January 26, 2018 to implement the one-time bill credit, but also voted to do so without increasing the rate for apartment building owners and other rate payers.
The year after, DEP confirmed no need for a rate increase for a second straight year, stating that the “system is in strong financial condition” with the elimination of the rental payment and that an estimated $1.1 billion in cash savings to the system is expected through FY 2021.
DEP then went on to approve last year’s rate increase and has proposed this year’s rate increase as a result of a need to “secure funding for ongoing need to invest in system assets” and “satisfy system objective of moderating future rate increases.” DEP once again credited the low rate increase as an “ongoing benefit from the Mayor’s elimination of the rental payment.”
During his mayoral campaign in 2013, then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio stated that if the rental payment was eliminated completely, there would no longer be a need for rate increases. However, if surplus savings were expected as a result of the elimination of the rental payment then at a minimum, any type of rate increase should not be approved until at least FY 2021.
The City Water Board will now hold public hearings concerning the proposed rate increases. RSA members must testify at these hearings and urge the Board to once again freeze water rates. In addition to increased water rates, building owners are hit with ever-increasing property taxes and other operating costs while rents are kept historically low. It is vital that the Water Board consider the plight of rental property owners.
The hearing schedule is on the accompanying chart. Anyone may attend or register to speak at any borough hearing regardless of whether or not they live or own property in that borough. Please be advised that oral testimony will be limited to five minutes. To register to testify, please contact the Water Board at (718) 595-3594, or by email at [email protected].
We will keep you apprised in the next issue of the RSA Reporter on the outcome of the Water Board’s decision for the FY 2020 rate.