March 16, 2021
Philadelphia residents have an opportunity to address a proposed water rate increase that would gradually hike the average customer's monthly bill by 17.6%.
The Water Rate Board is holding four public hearings online this week. The first two are slated to begin Tuesday at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Another two hearings are scheduled for the same times on Thursday. All four hearings will run about 30 minutes.
Any resident with computer or phone access can attend the public hearings. Instructions for joining, including Zoom links and call-in numbers, are available on the Water, Sewer and Storm Water Rate Board's website.
Residents can register to speak at the public meetings by calling (215) 685-6135 or emailing WaterRateBoard@phila.gov. People who do not sign up beforehand may still speak, but they may have to wait until the end of the hearing.
Residents planning to speak are advised to prepare statements in advance, tell about their personal experiences and be prepared to answer questions about their comments. Residents also can submit written statements to WaterRateBoard@phila.gov.
The proposed rate increase would be phased in over a two-year period, jumping by 11.6% on Sept. 1 and then by an additional 5.3% on Sept. 1, 2022. The average customer, who uses about 500 cubic feet of water each month, would see an $11.72 monthly increase.
The proposal has received pushback from some members of Philadelphia City Council, who believe the hike would cause too much of a burden on residents facing financial hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic.
.@PhiladelphiaGov is proposing a 17.6% water rate increase. You can make your voice heard about this change at a series of upcoming public meetings.— Councilmember Jamie Gauthier (@CouncilmemberJG) March 15, 2021
Get all the details from @CLSphila: https://t.co/IIloWErWkp pic.twitter.com/1moB9jXPHv
A similar rate increase was proposed last year, but then scrapped at the start of the pandemic.
The new rate increase is intended to help the Philadelphia Water Department recover from revenue losses incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic and growing expenses, Philadelphia Water Department CEO Randy Hayman told KYW.
"COVID put a lot of extra financial burden on us at the same time we're dealing with rising costs," Hayman said.
When the pandemic began, it restored service to 15,000 customers and kept another 70,000 customers connected as they fell behind after the city imposed a moratorium on service shutoffs. The department is facing $38 million in revenue losses.
A final decision on the proposed increase plan is expected to be made by June 16, according to the Inquirer.
The city's moratorium was extended to April 2022 last week. Fees and penalties are being temporarily waived, but they are not being permanently wiped from customers' accounts. They eventually will have to pay anything that goes unpaid during the pandemic.