First, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities officials ask us to conserve water. Now they slap us with a bill for the cost of that conservation: The expected loss of water and sewer revenues means a bigger boost in water and sewer rates. Translation - our water/sewer bills are going up even as we use less water.
Ah, sh... shucks.
One Forum writer speculates about “another fleecing of the citizens”. CMU Director Doug Bean tells City Council, which must approve the rate increase, it’s just math. With the unexpected and necessary conservation, millions of dollars the utilities plans on to meet budget will be gone. Since the utilities operates on fees and rates, not taxes, the only way to make up the difference is to raise fees. Utilities officials, who dropped by to talk to the Observer’s editorial board, also said this in an e-mail:
“One point we would re-emphasize is just how much capital costs play a role in the Utilities budget. These projects are necessary to serve our growing service area and for upgrades/reinvestment to existing infrastructure. In fact $158 million of this year’s $254 million budget is a fixed amount specifically dedicated to finance debt service for recent, current and future capital improvement projects.”
The shortfall threatens the system’s bond rating - and its ability to borrow money at low interest rates, Bean said. If the city doesn’t increase fees, it could cost the system millions of dollars in interest.
The proposed increases would mean an about $6.36 extra each month to the typical customer, beginning in May, if approved by City Council.
The proposal also would penalize heavy water users more. Customers are charged on a tiered system: The more water used, the more expensive it is per gallon. The proposal makes those tiers more aggressive, increasing the cost of water more quickly.
Bean says “water is not an unlimited, cheap commodity that can be wasted.” Sigh. Get out the checkbook.
What do you think about this water/sewer rate increase? Talk back to us.