The city’s Water Board voted on Friday to raise its water and sewer rates by 3.35 percent, a lower increase than initially suggested but the first one under Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has in the past called rate hikes a stealth tax.
Under the new increase, set to take effect on July 1, a single-family homeowner would see a boost from $992 to $1,025 a year. The increase for a multifamily home with metered billing would go up from $645 to $666 a year per unit.
However, the Water Board also gave a break to the estimated 25 percent of households who use the least amount of water by freezing their bills.
“We’re moving things in the right direction,” de Blasio’s spokesman Wiley Norvell said.
“This is a significant first step, and homeowners and businesses are going to immediately see the benefits from it.”
The rate hike boosts the average user’s annual bill above $1,000 for the first time, up from about $500 in 2002. It goes to pay for federally-mandated safety measures and system upgrades.
Last year, when de Blasio was a public advocate running for mayor, he complained that the water bills go into the city’s general fund, making it little different than a regular tax.
“For decades, the water system only charged customers what it needed to cover its costs,” de Blasio said. “But now, anyone who pays a water bill is sending more and more of their money into the city’s general budget. It’s wrong and it has to stop.”
Also approved was a city proposal to outfit 10,000 buildings with environmentally-friendly toilets. As many as 200,000 toilets would be replaced under the $23 million program, saving the city $9 million a year.
If successful, the city hopes to expand the program next year to include smaller residential buildings. The toilet replacement is part of an effort to reduce overall demand for water by 5percent by 2020.
When the city offered a similar program between 1994 and 1997, 1.3 million toilets were replaced.