This morning the New York City Water Board held a meeting to approve the 2.36% water rate increase, effective on July 1, 2018. This is the first rate increase in three years, but also the lowest proposed increase in 15 years.
In the preceding weeks, public hearings have been held in each borough for citizens to raise comments and concern. Alfonso L. Carney Jr., chair of the board, noted that public attendance at these hearings was light and attributed this to the assumption that the proposed rate increase must not be troubling. He acknowledged the points brought up by the few who did participate in the hearing process, and encouraged more concerned citizens to do so in the future. Some substantive points made at these hearings were:
- The DEP should establish a system to bill separately for water and stormwater, such that costs are split equitably among rate payers. Board member Adam Freed spoke up in favor of this suggestion, noting that this will be more feasible when the update underway to the DEP billing system is complete. He commended groups like the SWIM Coalition for their advocacy in this area, and is personally pushing for stormwater charges that incentivize green infrastructure installation (hopefully, more successfully then the Parking Lot Stormwater Pilot Program!)
- There is widespread support of the Multifamily Assistance Program, which has a cap at $10 million. It was suggested that the cap be doubled to $20 million by an unnamed opponent of the rate increase. While the board acknowledged this opinion, all they can do is keep this in mind for next year. Meanwhile, the new rate schedule altered the way this cap is administered. While the program once operated on a first-come first-serve basis, going forward assistance will be granted based on need. Need is assessed by NYC HPD from a metric based on median income and rent.
- Dov Vinar of Ashokan Water Services (that’s us!) raised concern about amendments to the Innocent Purchaser clause which implements a firm 30-day limit on the process. His concern is that the shortened time frame will potentially leave people exposed to ending up with bills from the previous owner. The water board will not address this issue.
- Dov also argued that a two-year expiration on Letters of Authorization is too short because appeals are often lengthy. Here, we saw the sole immediate success of the public hearing process! An amendment has been made such that LOAs are good for three years, or a time period at the discretion of the contracted party and the rate payer.
The amended resolution was approved and passed unanimously.