Board member Mark Hellerer said the bureau was able to achieve a "reasonable, balanced" increase due to a lower interest rate environment and better collections of unpaid water bills. Hellerer noted that the department's $16 billion capital program is funded through water rates from the city's 8 million customers and said the city does not obtain any significant federal funding for the agency's operations.But Corey Bearak, executive vice president for public and legislative affairs for the Queens Civic Congress, testified that the group opposes the hike and supports a rate rollback because the increase places "hardship" on homeowners by increasing rates without decreasing property taxes. He said that while the rate increase "appears" modest, hikes have taken place in all but two of the last 25 years. City Councilman James Gennaro, chairman of the Council's Environmental Protection Committee, has a different take on the proposed increases."While any increase in annual water rates is regrettable, it is crystal clear that additional revenue is needed to maintain the abundant supply and fine quality of New York City's drinking and wastewater treatment," he said.In a release, Gennaro applauded the board for its increased efforts in pursuing those with delinquent water bills. He pointed out that the 3 percent increase is smaller than last year's 5.5 percent hike.Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at news@times
©2005 Community News Group
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