Increases in Water and Sewer Charges Planned

The Republican-dominated City Council will consider two separate plans on May 24th, submitted by the administration of Republican Mayor Erin Stewart, to increase the amount city residents will pay in water and sewer fees.

The proposal for water charges would increase the fee for city water from $27.82 per thousand cubic foot of water used in the 2016-17 budget year to $29.21 in the coming budget year. That would represent a five percent increase. This rate applies to semi-annual water use of less than 2,300,000 cubic feet used. Lower rates apply for higher-volume users.

Sewer rates would go up by 9.3%, from $3.88 per hundred cubic feet in the 2016-17 budget year to $4.24 in the 2017-18 budget year.

Both the water and sewer rates are charged on the amount of water residents and businesses use. While they are separate fees, and the revenue from them go into separate city funds, they are both charged, together, on the same bills residents and businesses receive from the city.

The water and sewer fees are a major source of city revenue in addition to property taxes, and, as with property taxes, they have increased in recent years. Including Stewart’s proposed budget for the 2017-18 budget year, property taxes will have gone up by $19,231,280, nearly 19% higher under her administration since fiscal year 2014.

Water fee revenue, again, including Stewart’s proposed 2017-18 budget, will have increased by nearly 16%, up by $1,320,300 since fiscal year 2014. In that same time, during Stewart’s administration, sewer fee revenue are set to go up by nearly 33%, $2,644,997 higher. Taken together, the amount charged under the two fees will have increased by $3,965,297.

Increasing water rates have become a concern for city residents in the wake of the scandal involving the Stewart administration not disclosing information that the city was in a severe drought.  The information was not disclosed to New Britain residents during months in which Stewart and the Republican Council pressed for and approved the sale of the 1.2 million gallon-per-day potential Patton Brook drinking water well to the Town of Southington.

New Britain’s water supplies were depleted during the severe drought, while the need to conserve water was not disclosed to the public, leaving the city in the position, without recent precedent, of having to purchase water from the Hartford-area water authority, known as the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC). The cost of purchasing water from the MDC was estimated in a Council resolution at approximately $400,000.

Stewart and the Republican Council majority recently backed away from the controversial move to sell the Patton Brook Well in the face of the growing scandal.

Editor’s note (6/2/2017): This article was corrected to change “rates” to “fee revenue” in reference the 16% cumulative increase in water charges and 33% cumulative increase in sewer charges, and to clarify that the amount charged under the two fees will have increased by $3,965,297.