Commissioner Emily Lloyd of the city’s Department of Environmental Protection probably was anticipating the loud grumbling she elicited Monday night when she discussed water rate increases at a town hall meeting in St. Albans.
“Rates have gone up 181 percent in 12 years,” Lloyd acknowledged before a crowd of more than 150 in the Robert Ross Johnson Family Life Center.
And she said the reason is that the agency is funded almost exclusively by the ratepayers, who have had to foot the bill for some expensive infrastructure over the last decade or so.
Lloyd said a decree from the federal and state governments mandated the construction of the Newtown Creek Water Pollution Control Plant to the tune of $4 billion.
A new water filtration plant cost $3 billion. Other major capital projects over that span added about $2 billion.
“We had to bond to pay for those,” Lloyd said. “We had to raise rates to pay off the debt.”
And while this year’s increase of 3.35 percent still did not sit well with her audience, Lloyd said the hike should be far more palatable than those in recent years, which averaged 7 percent in the 12-year period in question and one year spiked at almost 15 percent. The ratepayers, she reiterated, must carry the cost of borrowing.
“[The rate is] probably not going to be where we want it for a while,” the commissioner said.
Lloyd did say that while the DEP rents water infrastructure from the city, Mayor de Blasio has agreed to reduce the cost.
Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) has said the hike remains excessive, and that no increase would be necessary to adequately fund the Water Board if the city would only lower its rental fees to an appropriate rate, rather than try to use ratepayers to build the general fund.
Commissioner Lloyd also said the money saved will go back into the water and sewer budgets rather than the city’s general fund.