According to The Buffalo News, residents above the poverty line will now see their water bills increase by $5 a month beginning Jan. 1, 2019, under a new rate structure from the Buffalo Water Board.
Low-income customers will get a $60 annual credit on their water bills and will not see an increase in rates, according to The Buffalo News. Very low-income customers will get a $90 annual credit and will see their bills decrease. This is part of a new Residential Affordable Water Program for qualifying customers, who will have to apply to the program.
According to The Buffalo News, additional water increases under the new rate structure will be applied to customers with large water meter capacities, such as public facilities and commercial and industrial businesses.
It is the first rate increase in seven years, according to Water Board officials in a written statement. The officials were not immediately available to answer how much revenue they expect to generate from the rate increases or how much money is needed to do the capital improvements and to meet the increased costs for operations and maintenance, according to The Buffalo News.
In early 2018, the Buffalo Water Board partnered with the U.S. Water Alliance to form the Water Equity Task Force to develop a new rate structure. The partnership aimed at creating equity between industrial, commercial and residential customers, while considering the financial needs of water system.
According to The Buffalo News, the task force worked with stakeholders such as Groundwork Buffalo, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, PUSH Buffalo and the Western New York Environmental Alliance.
In the new budget, residential property taxes increased by 3.4% and commercial property taxes by 5.5%. According to The Buffalo News, for homeowners that translated into $60 on a home assessed at $100,000. Commercial properties assessed at $100,000 will have an increase of $146.
The current budget increases the garbage user fee range from about $17 to $38 and $68 over the old fees, depending on the size of the garbage tote. The increases would make the solid waste fund self-sustaining.