Stokes said residents should be treated more like the corporations and developers that have received tax breaks over the years to encourage them to invest within the city. He said poor people in his district wouldn't be able to cover the costs of a water bill increase.

"People are now crushed to the point of making really bad choices," he said. "People are giving up meals."

He asked that the city find a way to cover the necessary infrastructure repairs through the general fund.

Janet Blair, who lives off North Avenue in West Baltimore, said she has no confidence in the city. Over the years, she said, she's had to pay a slew of new fees and higher taxes imposed by the city.

"I am asking you today to use your common sense and stop taking our money to do whatever you want to do with it," Blair said. "You've not fixed the pipes. Y'all have been telling that story for a long time and you haven't done it and I don't believe you're going to do it this time."

One resident asked the board to "take a breath" before approving the rate increases. Another warned of an uprising by voters to throw out elected officials.

Donald Smith of Hamilton, a lifelong city resident, said he would simply be pushed to the point of leaving.

"Families like myself are moving out of Baltimore City, and we're going to pass the word: 'Do not spend your money in Baltimore City.'"

Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater contributed to this article.

Proposed rate increases

•Baltimore water customers would be charged a 15 percent rate increase in the fiscal year that begins July 1 under a proposal before the Board of Estimates.

•The board must also decide whether to authorize rate increases of 11 percent in both fiscal years 2015 and 2016.