Baltimore moved one step closer Thursday to implementing a water billing system that will charge poorer residents less than more wealthy residents.
The City Council’s Taxation, Finance and Economic Development Committee unanimously approved the Water Accountability and Equity Act, sponsored by Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young when he was council president. The bill advanced to the full council for its consideration next month.
Through the use of credits, the legislation establishes a tiered billing system tied to income. For the city’s poorest residents, it would cap their water bill at no more than 1% of their annual pay.
“Everywhere I go in Baltimore, the high cost of water and water billing issues top the list of concerns among residents,” said Democratic Council President Brandon Scott said in a statement. “Building a more accountable and equitable water system is of the utmost importance."
The city has consistently increased the cost of water over the past decade, including a three-year, 30% increase the Board of Estimates approved in January. That has produced bills that many residents in one of the state’s poorest jurisdictions say they can’t afford.
“By advancing the Water Accountability and Equity Act today, the TFED Committee is finally telling Baltimore that the city cares," Rianna Eckel, the lead Maryland organizer with Food & Water Watch, which pushed for the legislation, said in a statement.
The city’s finance department has opposed the legislation, arguing it would deprive Baltimore’s government of much-needed revenue.