News Feature | June 25, 2014

Cincinnati City Council Sidesteps, Then Approves, Water Rate Hike

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

Cincinnati

The Cincinnati City Council was hailed for fending off a controversial rate hike this year, but a week later, officials approved an increase anyway.

"Cincinnati's City Council approved a 4 percent increase in water rates. The increase is meant to fix the city's aging sewer system," Fox 19 reported.

"A 7.5 percent increase was originally proposed but council voted that down [the previous week]. They compromised on four percent, but not all agreed it was the best decision," the report said.

It initially looked like the issue would be kicked down the road.

"Any rate increase has been indefinitely postponed," Vice Mayor David Mann said, per WLWT.

But he later added, "I hope that a majority of the council on reflection will only support a smaller increase. We have to have that to support our bond rating."

Council member Yvette Simpson said the increase is too small.

"If you pass a 4 percent increase you'll be passing an 11 percent increase next year. So no one can say next year we're surprised when the recommendation comes with 11 percent," Simpson said.

Cincinnati customers have watched a steady annual pattern of rising water rates.

"Water rates for Greater Cincinnati Water Works and sewer rates for the Metropolitan Sewer District have increased almost every year since 2005, according to the city. The exception was 2011 when there was not a water rate hike," the report said. 

Conservation, and its adverse impact on revenue, is one reason the rate hike was needed, WCPO reported, citing Cincinnati Water Works officials. 

"One of the main reasons, in its written request to council, is because customers are using less water these days, resulting in lower revenues," the report said. "The problem, over the past decade, is that consumers have taken Dad's advice, and have turned down the water while brushing their teeth."

Cincinnati Water Works is on the hook for infrastructure upgrades even when its pocketbook is empty. "Water Works is required to do the same amount of maintenance and upgrades to its facilities whether it makes $10 million a year or 10 cents a year," the report said. 

Image credit: "Cincinnati," Robert S. Donovan © 2013, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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