Atlanta residents already bracing for a potential tax hike may also be facing a sharp jump in their water and sewer bills.
Although the Department of Watershed Management won’t deliver its proposed budget to the City Council until May 1, a highly placed source in City Hall says the department is planning to ask for a dramatic 25-percent rate increase.
The department had recently sought to enact a “drought surcharge” to offset residents’ lower water usage – and thus lower water revenue – but was rebuffed by the Council.
“It seems unfair to ask people to conserve water and then penalize them for doing it,” says Councilwoman Clair Muller.
The presumption is that Watershed would simply roll the increase into its upcoming budget proposal, which was already anticipated to include higher rates to pay for the next round of sewer fixes. But Muller says the rumored 25-percent hike is much steeper than was expected – and is likely to inflame more controversy in a City Hall already grappling with a budget crisis.
If such a large increase in water rates is proposed, Muller says she will move to postpone future clean-water projects so the city can keep rates lower but still meet a federal consent order to repair its aging sewers.