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Raleigh Might Pass Cost of Drought Onto Residents

Posted January 18, 2008

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— The drought has taken a toll everywhere: people's daily lives, their pocketbooks and municipalities' public utilities budgets. Raleigh officials were considering a 50 percent surcharge to pass that cost onto residents.

The City Council referred the proposal by Mayor Charles Meeker to the Public Works Committee. Meeker argued that the surcharge – applied to every residential customers' water bill – would serve dual purposes: encourage conservation and help raise funds for the city's Department of Public Utilities.

"We aren't supported by taxpayers' money, so we are only supported by water and sewer bills," said Ed Buchan, a water specialist with the public-utilities department. The surcharge could "make up for anticipated loss revenue if we don't have the ability to permit regulation this year," he added.

On Jan. 8, the City Council passed several water-conservation regulations proposed by Meeker – including a continued ban on outdoor watering. That measure, in particular, threatens the budget of the city's public-utilities department, officials said.

Overall, the Department of Public Utilities stands to use tens of millions of dollars, Meeker estimated. The department uses its funds to replace and maintain water lines and build water treatment plants.

"We're at a point now where capital improvement projects are very important, and they're very expensive now," Buchan said. "Historically, Raleigh has been very fortunate in being able to sort of delay having to do a lot of these things."

Those budgetary considerations, though, did not fly with some residents and at least one councilman.

"It seems like everything is attached to money, and I think that's wrong," Raleigh resident J.C. Edwards said.

Councilman Russ Stephenson proposed implementing a tiered water rate structure that would target high-water users, both residential and commercial.

Meeker said the city's billing system can not handle tiered rates, but city officials were looking at upgrading the software in the next couple years.

Resident Christine Floyd questioned whether she could cut back on her water use more than she has already.

"I drink about five bottles a day," Floyd said. "I cook with it everyday, shower with it. I don't know, it's really important."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • moreupset Jan 18, 2008

    Why do cities and counties require persons to abandon perfectly good wells when they pass their pipes by their homes?

  • moreupset Jan 18, 2008

    Do some more math! A 50% increase is a 50% increase. Do not try to hide the results by saying if one did this or one did that!

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Jan 18, 2008

    In the real world when revenues go down, you cut expenses through cost reduction and payroll reductions. In the world of government, you just charge the taxpayers another tax.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Jan 18, 2008

    The good thing is that Meeker and his Socialist allies on the City Council won't get re-elected in 2009 after adding the 50% tax on Water. Bet they forget to remove this temporary tax when it starts raining.

  • SEOpro Jan 18, 2008

    double06. Under a properly tiered structure, you would not pay extra if you do not consume EXCESS water levels. Your bill would be under your discretion and control.

    Now, that is "assuming" that a properly structured solution that provides incentive for conservation and responsiblity for excess while supporting water services "fund" is put into place.

  • NCFF Jan 18, 2008

    Furthermore to previous posts, if the proposed surcharge is indeed revenue neutral (no increase in money to this enterprise fund)...

    Based on my previous example

    Mr. Irrigtor sees his bill drop from $16.00/month to $9.00/month ($6.00/month in the irrigation season). If the irrigation season is say 7-months long he sees an annual savings of $42.00.

    Meanwhile, Mr. Conserver sees his bill increase from $6.00/month to $9.00/month -- a $3.00/month increase. Since his usage is for 12-months of the year he pays $36.00 more per year.

    Mr. Irrigator = -$42.00/year
    Mr. Conserver = +$36.00/year

    In this example there would then be 1.167 "Conservers" for every 1.00 "Irrigators". Or, politically, 53.8% of us would be "Conservers" and 46.2% would be irrigators.

    So, this proposal, would seem to call the majority of folks to be paying for a problem, that at a minimum, was aggrevated by the minority.

  • ncresident1 Jan 18, 2008

    The drought will not last forever. No need for higher bills. NO NEED FOR A TIERED STRUCTURE. We ALREADY pay higher bills when we use more water. Adding a tiered structure and raising our bills even higher is a bad idea and NOT needed. With a tiered rate, when there is plenty of water and everthing is back to normal, the city will be charging us higher rates when we water our lawns and wash our cars. During normal conditions the higher tiered rate will still be in effect. Robbery!!!! Tiered rates are like INCOME TAX at the end of World War II. The Government claimed it was only going to be a temporay tax to offset the cost of the war. But I'm still paying income tax-how about you? Don't trust them. There is nothing temporary with the Government. And think about this one-Does the City Government reduce our water bills when there is plenty of water. NO they don't. The more money they can pull out of your pocket the happier they are.

  • SEOpro Jan 18, 2008

    Right - I mentioned in an earlier post, the tiered system would serve to keep needed funds in the coffer, but put costs on excessive use where they belong. It would reward conservative use of water and stimulate individuals as well as businesses to be proactive in avoiding water waste.

    It appears that the reason the Mayor tried to shut down discussion of this options by stating that the billing system wasn't set up for this - well, that cuts off the discussion on a different level and he doesn't have to explain why he wants to stay away from the IRE of business owners who have made no move to conserve water but lavishly consume water at will to run their businesses. (And WHO needs to support a local car wash and drive a clean car when there is no water to DRINK??) It all comes down to the Mayor hedging at making businesses be responsible for their water consumption. Ever wonder how those business complex lawns never went brown? Nobody notices those soaker hoses under pine straw.....

  • gkgreene Jan 18, 2008

    Let all the users in Wake Forest, Rolesville, Garner, Knightdale and other towns pay for the extra costs. Meeker and public works decided some time these towns could take whatever they need since Raleigh had an abundance to supply. Cary elected not to supply the county and are not in the same predicament.

  • NCFF Jan 18, 2008

    Sorry I hit the "Add Comment" prematurely...

    All the more reason, I believe, a 100X surcharge should be placed on irrigation meter use ($100.00/1,000 gallons) vs. consumptive meters ($1.00 to $1.50/1,000 gallons) with a tiered cap to prevent shifting non-consumptive demands over to consumptive meters.