Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Queens Pol Raps Mayor on Water Bill Hike

By Rob Abruzzese and Chris Smoudianis

The chairman of the City Council Environmental Committee blasted Mayor Bloomberg at a Water Board hearing in Queens today for shooting down a plan that would have lowered a proposed 14.5 percent water rate hike.

The move would have lowered the rate hike by five percent and saved some 825,000 city residents nearly $122 million in fiscal year 2009, officials said.

The Bloomberg administration has diverted funds from the water bills to fund projects unrelated to the city’s water and sewer system, charged Councilman James Gennaro, Democrat of Queens.

Each year, the Water Board is required to raise enough revenue to cover its operational and bonding costs and also must make a payment on 15 percent of its debt service. But Gennaro says those additional payments are pinching the pockets of middle class families.

“This is an out of control situation that’s just going to get worse over time,” said Gennaro. “The Bloomberg administration should get its hands out of the pockets of water bill-paying New Yorkers and commit to using the revenues collected from water bills for water and sewer projects only.”

The current rate hike exceeds the 11.5 percent increase projected a year ago. It is especially high since the city began cracking down on property owners who were delinquent to make their water bill payments and lessen the burden of future rate increases.

Gennaro said the rate increase should be around a five and a half percent instead of 14.5 percent. He also says these rate increases set bad precedents which will cause them to continue to rise every year and he estimated they would surpass $300 million by the fiscal year 2015.

The Mayor had another view.

“They spend the money on real projects which we need,” Bloomberg said Monday. “From what I can tell, they do it reasonably efficiently, and this seems to me to be brouhaha about nothing from a couple of people who want to run for higher office.”

“We have to keep the king’s cotton picking hands off water and sewer money,” retorted Gennaro. “This is what has to be done to avoid outrageous water rate increases every year.”

The city proposed another increase in December of 18 percent, citing lower than expected revenues. That proposal did not go through when the city agreed to crack down on delinquent payments.

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