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Queens water rates rising

City residents may face another water rate hike, according to the city Department of Environmental Protection. Photo illustration by Christina Santucci
TimesLedger Newspapers

It could have been worse, according to the city Department of Environmental Protection.

A proposed 7 percent increase in next fiscal year’s water rates could hand homeowners an increase from $877 per year to $939 per year for water and sewer bills — or just over an additional $5 per month, according to the DEP.

“Our proposed 7 percent rate increase is the lowest increase in seven years and shows that DEP is doing everything in our power to try and keep rates in check while still delivering a product that city residents can take pride in every time they turn on the tap,” said DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland. “Though any rate increase is difficult in these economic conditions, we are clearly moving in the right direction.”

The proposed increase is a 25 percent reduction from the last year’s projected increase, which was more than 9 percent, the DEP said. According to a release from the DEP, it is the lowest increase in seven years and the third year in a row in which the increase has come down from the previous year’s projection.

But the news did not impress city Comptroller John Liu, who said at Monday night’s Community Board 11 meeting that any increase was a bad one.

“It’s somewhat absurd that it is almost good news this year that it isn’t a double-digit rate increase,” Liu said. “We had four years of double-digit increases on the water rates and it’s shocking that they pitched it as ‘only 7 percent,’ which is completely ludicrous.”

Liu said he believed there should be a more independent agency managing the city’s water rates, and his office was looking into the situation.

“Homeowners are feeling it all over the place,” Liu said. “The water rates are not only being used to support the water’s infrastructure. They’re going into the city’s coffers.”

Although Strickland said the DEP still needed to raise rates to cover expenses, particularly debt services, steps were being taken to curb the rising costs.

“In the past year, the DEP has successfully convinced our regulators to defer or eliminate more than $5 billion in unfunded mandates,” Strickland said. “We will continue to advocate aggressively to further remove costly burdens that put enormous pressure on our 836,000 customers, specifically when such mandates do not achieve significant health benefits for the public.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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