Greenpoint Gazette

One Drop At A Time

BY Lauren Belski

While everyone remains oddly befuddled at the exponentially growing costs of oil, NASCAR drivers continue to burn through millions of gallons of fuel and hundreds of petroleum derived tires, as they literally turn left in circles on a weekly basis. Meanwhile, another liquid once used to hydrate the athletes (not cars) of yesteryear continues to cause alarm because of its mounting costs.

In what seems a continued effort to make New York City impossible to live in, the city has once again approved a measure that continues to increase the cost of a glass of tap water.

On May 16, the New York City Water Board approved a %14.5 water hike, the largest increase since the 1992 fiscal year. Despite efforts ongoing efforts from the City’s Comptroller, William C. Thompson, Jr, who proposed bringing a fairer structure to water payments, the hike was passed.

“It’s an issue of fairness and equity,” said Thompson, who has spoken out about the last three water rate increases and offered solutions to the Water Board and the City.

“At a time when all New Yorkers are feeling the pinch of rising food, energy and shelter costs, we are being asked to dig deeper into our pockets to pay for yet another essential need: water. The proposed 14.5% rate increase, on the back of an 11.5% increase last year, will have a very real deleterious effect on those that can least afford it.” said comptroller Thompson to the Water board, shortly after the rate hike was approved.

An outraged Council Member John Liu stated “Charging people for tap water became a necessary evil in order to fund maintenance of the City’s water supply and infrastructure. However, the practice has morphed horribly into a general revenue source hidden from the public review, with three double-digit yearly increases. Water rates should be no higher than the amounts to keep our water safe and flowing, and the proposed hike should have been flushed.”

“It is truly a disservice to New Yorkers to even think again of raising water rates – a most regressive tax that we can’t even claim deductions for federal purposes” added Councilman Liu.

Last year, Comptroller Thompson formally recommended that excess rent collected by the Water Board should be rebated to the water system for the benefit of ratepayers. He offered the Water Board a long-range proposal that would effectively lower charges to ratepayers while at the same time reducing future debt through the use of “pay as you go” capital financing. The proposal was well-received by the Water Board but was rebuffed by the City.

In a letter to the Water Board on April 11, Comptroller Thompson commended the board for explore alternatives but also suggested ways to create a fairer structure for New Yorkers to pay water bills.

These measures include:

o Requiring that the Authority’s rate increase request for the coming fiscal year 2009 delineate the amount of excess rent and identify the savings to ratepayers if this rent were to be rebated and applied to reduce capital borrowing and/or subsequent years’ costs.
o Independently examining the long-term financial viability of the system’s current funding structure given the system’s growing capital obligations. This should include a review of which items of infrastructure are being funded by water ratepayers and what can be done to reduce the system’s capital costs.
o Engaging its own attorney to explore legal options (as provided for in the lease agreement), if the City continues to be unwilling to negotiate a more equitable treatment of ratepayers.

The costs of basic necessities like housing, electricity, gas, subway fare and even water will continue a natural increase as our population increases. In the end there is only so much water and soil so go around. Knowing that is it necessary to go about discovering new and ridiculous ways to use up more… well, everything?

*****No word yet if bottled water manufacturers’ plan to seize on the increase, or if and when NASCAR cars will run on Gatorade.

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Greenpoint Gazette
597 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222
phone: 718-389-6067

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