Op-Ed
by Albert Baldeo
May 19, 2009 | 2987 views | 0 0 comments | 53 53 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The times we live in are challenging enough. That's why the proposed 12.9% hike in water rates in the city is unbearable. The proposed hike comes one year after increases of 14.5% last July, 11.5% in 2007 and 9% in 2006. The average annual bill for a one-family home under the 12.9% increase is projected to be $911, up from $779 at the current rate. Surely, a disguised tax increase that will continue to unfairly burden the middle and working class?

These increases add up, and the burden grows heavier on the backs of working families. In fact, the DEP increased the salaries of some of its workers by 35%, surely a move that flies in the face of its customers.

The increase planned for July is unfair. The city gets $200 million per year from the water revenue to add to its general funds, and they should be thankful for that. Instead of counting its blessings, the DEP appears to be penalizing homeowners for conserving water, by imposing a surcharge on our payments, while raising the salaries of some of its workers.

The double-digit annual increases are unsustainable and, very soon, homeowners will be unable to pay for the cumulative weight of essential services and supplies.

When will the middle class and working families get a break? Why a 13% increase? DEP must show some its customers some consideration, rather than jumping on the bandwagon of greed. Drown your customers with some appreciation, not additional charges.

To keep costs under control, DEP must curb waste, theft, and mismanagement wherever it occurs. It should go after water freeloaders. Some rogue plumbers roll water meters backward, thus moonlighting as water thieves. The DEP is to blame in some circumstances, because it doesn't audit the previous months' bills and demand that the water thief account for negative usage. Negative rollbacks should trigger an audit and an investigation of the relevant meters.

DEP should also check the many development sites in the city 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.

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