By ALISSA SCOTT
City residents could face a nearly 3 percent increase in water rates, according to the proposed budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year.
That's how it looks now, city controller Matthew Agresta said at a budget meeting Thursday night. "But that could change. That is what the mayor's submission shows."
That increase amounts to about $10 more a year per residential unit, Agresta said.
Last fiscal year, the city collected $2.8 million from residential, or flat water units, but this year, the mayor has budgeted for a total revenue from that source of $3 million.
From metered users, or commercial units, the city collected $1 million last year, and $1.2 million is budgeted this year.
The town of Amsterdam did not previously have a line item in the budget, but the city is expecting to collect $630,000 in the coming year.
Last year, the city collected $480,000 from the town of Florida and expects to collect $530,000 this year.
Third Ward Alderman Ronald J. Barone Sr. has said he doesn't think it's right the city is using water rates to "balance the budget."
"I just want to take a look at the water usage fees," Barone said. "I'm kind of uncomfortable with that. It's like over-taxing everybody. When you over-tax, they start leaving and all we need to do is start losing businesses. The city will certainly hurt. I just want to look at it."
But, Agresta said it's impossible not to.
"Last year we transferred $509,000 to the general fund from the water fund because our tax base is so low," Agresta said. "We pay that because it helps to alleviate the burden on the general fund."
Still, Agresta said the city is undercharging compared to area municipalities.
"If we were to increase the average of the regular family unit to what other municipalities in the area are charging, it would go up much more than 2 percent," Agresta said. "While we've increased it, it's still below the average."
Agresta said the goal is to change the rates and increase revenue without increasing what people are paying, but it's sometimes unavoidable.
The water department also receives revenue from plumbing permits and interest on investments. Those lines have remained relatively flat.