Councilmen Vincent Gentile and David Greenfield issued press releases slamming the proposed increase in the water rate that we wrote about earlier today.
In particular, Gentile went after the year-after-year increases that has left homeowners paying nearly double what they paid in 2005, and the fact that the city is using the money to pay off debts (for what it’s worth, the debts were incurred during the 1970s, long before the mayorality was a twinkle in Bloomberg’s eyes).
Here’s his statement in full:
“Mayor Bloomberg is at it again with yet another 5.3% water rate hike that will undoubtedly hit homeowners the most,” Vincent Gentile, 43rd City Council Candidate said. “Since 2005, the average family in New York City has seen their water bill go up nearly 80%. Even more despicable, some of the revenue from these backdoor tax hikes is used to pay previous bills the City has racked up, which have nothing to do with water usage. Homeowners shouldn’t have to bear the consequences of decades of irresponsibility and poor fiscal management on the part of the City. Average citizens are struggling enough without the City picking their pockets for extra cash. Crippling homeowners to pay for outsized budgets is bad policy and outright wrong. In the Council I will continue to work to develop a budget that cuts wasteful spending and uses revenue efficiently, so that we can pay our bills without unfairly burdening our middle class.”
Meanwhile, Greenfield focused on ongoing concerns over the use of new electronic meter readers that allow usage to be monitored remotely. Here’s a chunk of his release:
Councilman David G. Greenfield is demanding that the city back off its proposal to again raise water rates in the coming year until it can resolve all outstanding issues that customers have had with sky-high bills ever since the city installed automated meter readers on homes and businesses several years ago. The city Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently announced that homeowners and businesses are facing a yet-to-be-determined increase in their water bills next year, after being hit with a 5.6 percent increase this summer and a 7 percent increase last year. Since 2005, water bills have increased 78 percent, including double digit increases in four straight years from 2008 to 2011. According to a report in today’s Daily News, the city collected a record $3.3 billion in water revenues during the prior fiscal year, up from $2.1 billion in 2008. That means the average water bill for a single-family home is now nearly $1,000 a year – up from $554 just five years ago.
However, during the same time period, countless property owners have seen their bills increase by much higher amounts since the city began installing automated meter readers on buildings around the city in 2009 to remotely determine a property’s water usage. Many residents have reported receiving water bills that are two or three times higher than they were in the past, despite having fewer children at home and using a minimal amount of water. This was consistent with issues that other cities faced after installing similar technology, prompting Councilman Greenfield to call on the DEP to conduct a full audit and review of the new electronic meters, which were installed as part of a $250 million project, to ensure that they are accurate and are not overcharging residents.
While the DEP and Bloomberg administration has maintained that its system is accurate, Councilman Greenfield continues to receive complaints from frustrated property owners over incredibly high water bills that do not match the actual water usage at their home or business. In response to these continuing billing issues, Councilman Greenfield believes that the Water Board, which is appointed by the mayor, should not approve any future water rate increases until the DEP finally conducts a full audit of the automated meter readers to ensure they are accurate and to eliminate concerns from the public that thousands of customers are being overcharged.