Five members of Baltimore’s City Council are demanding that the Department of Public Works launch an independent study to justify a recently announced water-rate increase.
Under DPW’s proposal, which will go before the city’s spending board Wednesday, water rates would go up more than 9 percent every year for three years, resulting in an approximately 30 percent increase over time.
The city, citing costly but necessary improvements to its aging water and sewer systems, has raised rates regularly in recent years, to the point that residents pay double what they did nine years ago.
The latest rate hike, which would take effect July 1, would add $8 a month to a typical bill for a family of three, the department said.
Baltimore water rates would rise 9 percent each of the next three years under a Department of Public Works proposal. It also creates a new assistance program for poor customers that would help with their monthly bills. The proposal will go before the city's spending board on Jan. 9.
“It is time to freeze this increase and do a deep dive into alternative methods to lower this second round of unfair rate increase,” said council member Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer, one of the council members set to appear at a news conference Tuesday at 4 p.m. at City Hall.
In a statement, councilman Zeke Cohen said the “public deserves an independent evaluation that explains how the rates are set.” Similar studies have taken place in Rockville, Harford County and elsewhere before rate increases.
Council members Bill Henry, Kristerfer Burnett and Shannon Sneed were also set to appear at the news conference.
Meanwhile, the department proposes to launch “Baltimore H2O Assists,” a program that would discount water rates for households with incomes below 175 percent of the federal poverty level.
In addition, legislation proposed by City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young would cap water bills on a sliding scale for low-income households: from 1 percent of income for those who make less than 50 percent of the poverty level to 3 percent for those whose income is from 100 percent to 200 percent of the poverty level.