Rates Would Increase for All Building Classes Citywide
Despite no relief for rental property owners since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the City Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) once again considering another rent freeze, the City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has proposed a water rate increase for all rate payers citywide.
During a teleconference hearing on May 10th, DEP made a proposal to the City Water Board to raise water rates for all rate payers throughout the City by 2.76% for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 that will commence on July 1, 2021. According to DEP, the rate is necessary to offset decreased operating revenues and a large spike in overdue bills and delinquent accounts, which are up nearly 27% over the last year due to the pandemic.
Last year, understanding the negative financial impact created by the pandemic for all rate payers throughout the City, DEP made the recommendation to freeze rates for FY 2021 and the Water Board ultimately approved the rate freeze. This year, DEP acknowledged ongoing struggles for rate payers, particularly owners of larger residential and commercial buildings, but raised red flags about estimated budgetary issues over the next four fiscal years.
Even more frustrating is that although DEP has justified the proposed rate increase because of revenue and budgetary concerns, Mayor Bill de Blasio has all but guaranteed that DEP will not be charged a rental payment to the City for FY 2022. As some of you may recall, then-Public Advocate Bill de Blasio campaigned to become mayor in 2013 and vowed that if the rental payment to the City was eliminated, a so-called “hidden tax,” there would never be the need for another water rate increase. It was not until 2018 that this rental payment was eliminated and although two consecutive rate freezes were approved as a result of RSA’s legal challenge against the Water Board, rates increased by 2.36% and 2.31% the following two years despite the ongoing suspension of the rental payment.
Prior to the pandemic, DEP considered the City’s water system to be in a strong financial position with $1.1 billion in cash savings expected to go into the system through FY 2021. These savings, as well as rate hikes in FY 2019 and FY 2020, should not have put the system in a poor financial position this year despite the impact of the pandemic. Now, as building owners continue to be shut out from any pandemic relief and the RGB considering an historic fourth rent freeze in the last eight years, it is crucial that the Water Board rejects DEP’s proposal and approve another water rate freeze. It is imperative that our members testify this year against any rate increase at the Water Board’s public hearings.
Due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic, the Water Board will hold two teleconference public hearings on June 1st at 12:00 p.m. and June 2nd at 6:00 p.m. The Water Board is encouraging the public to submit testimony in writing ahead of the hearings. However, if rate payers prefer, they will be permitted to provide oral testimony while calling into the teleconference hearings.
Pre-written comments can be submitted by email or mail and must be received by the Water Board by 4:00 p.m. the day before the hearing that you chose to testify at. If you elect to submit testimony via email, please send it to [email protected] If you plan on sending it by mail, please send it to 59-17 Junction Boulevard, 8th Floor, Flushing, NY 11373. To testify live and access the teleconference hearings, dial (347) 921-5612, access code 107 181 687# for the June 1st hearing. For the June 2nd hearing, dial (347) 921-5612 and input access code 875 205 402#. Please be aware that although the call numbers for both hearings are the same, the access codes are different.