Thompson: Water Rate Hike Is 'Back Door Property Tax'
"Tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m., I will be in front of the Water Board telling them how they've been ripping us off," said Thompson, speaking at the April 2 meeting of the United Community Civic Association (UCCA).
The City Water Board met on Friday, April 3 to begin considering an expected 14 percent raise in water rates. Thompson, pointing to an 11 percent increase in rates two years ago and a 14.5 percent increase last year, said, "This is no longer a charge on water, it is a backdoor property tax."
If the increase goes through, water and sewer bills for the average homeowner would increase from $799 to $911 per year. This would come as water consumption is down by 6 percent so far this year, to levels last experienced in the 1960s, according to the City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The DEP says the decline in water use accounts for about 80 percent of its $100 million deficit this year.
"An increase of any size is never easy, and particularly now," DEP Acting Commissioner Steve Lawitts said, in an April 3 'NY 1' report. "I want to assure members of the Board and the public that we are very diligent in keeping costs down," he said.
"It's been a year since the DEP commissioner stood before the New York City Water Board and vowed to conduct a $1 million study to devise a better way to calculate water and sewer charges," Thompson said in a press release. "Even though that commissioner has since left [DEP] and despite promises to the board, to my office, to the City Council, and most importantly—to the public, that review has not been completed in time to inform this year's rate-setting process—and yet the Water Board is about to announce another hefty hike," he said. "One can only imagine that if it were done in time and released early enough we could have devised a way to cut down on these costs. This is unacceptable and outrageous. Where has the $1 million gone?"
Thompson has charged that the current formula for water and sewer rates is diverting money, as much as $123 million in Fiscal 2009, into the city General Fund. Thompson told UCCA their water rate increases are being used to subsidize other people. "To use a bad phrase, they're just soaking us," he said.
New York City Water Board members are appointed to two-year terms by the Mayor. A vote on the water rate increase is expected to be taken by the Board in May. There will be a series of public hearings in the five boroughs before the vote. Any rate increase will take effect on July 1.
"[The Water Board] lied to us. We're tired of being ripped off," Thompson said. "They need to do something different."