A scant two months after a panel calling itself the Water Authority of South East Nassau County – to study the feasibility of taking public the private company NYAmerican Water – dissolved itself amid angry allegations it had not completed its work, the water company has requested a rate hike of 8.3% through the New York Public Service Commission that would affect residents living in the Bellmores and the Merricks
Should the public service commission grant the water company request, new rates would go into effect on April 1, 2017.
In a letter to the commission dated April 29, NYAmerican Water laid out several reasons for its rate increase request, among them continued investment in infrastructure, effective management and reduction of operating and maintenance expenses, escalation of property taxes, and consolidation of the numerous tariffs currently in effect throughout the company’s service territory.
The company added that “there are certain costs, such as property taxes, that are primarily beyond the company’s control, and that drive the need to request rate relief.” While claiming to have challenged property assessments in the past, and refunding over $20 million to its customers in the past 10 years,
“property taxes comprise more than 20% of the company’s requested revenue requirement change in this proceeding.”
NYAmerican Water says it “requests a revenue requirement increase of approximately $8.49 million,” resulting in an overall increase in present rate revenues of 8.3%.
Reaction has been swift to its rate increase request. On a public website to record comments on the proposed rate increase, residents within the water district are saying strongly they oppose any rate increase. “I do not understand another surcharge for this company. I know people in other communities not paying as high water bills as this company. It appears that our bills go up, not determined by water usage, rather by an arbitrary surcharge. I am against this additional charge. My usage has gone down, but my bill has gone up,” remarked one NYAmerican Water user.
“I am opposed to this rate hike! The company has on my bill and has had since it acquired the former company [NY Water] under Other Charges….System improvement Surcharge of 0.98, also a RAC/PTR Surcharge of 5.92 which totals $6.90. Now it requests this rate increase of 8.3%?” said another irate customer.
Dave Denenberg, co-director of the Merrick-based Long Island Clean Air Water and Soil Ltd. wrote in a letter to the commission that the group opposes the increase, the water company’s first increase since 2012.
Claiming the water company passes 100% of its tax liability onto residents in the districts it serves, Denenberg says in the letter that “This unequivocally means that town and county taxpayers who are American Water customers pay county, town and local district property taxes for their water company’s property, which … benefit ALL county, town and district taxpayers, while water district customers do not pay property taxes for [other] water district’s property. The result is NY American Water Company’s customers pay for maintenance, supply and American Water’s record profits as well as American Water’s property taxes, which benefits ALL taxpayers, while water district customers only pay for maintenance, supply and usage. Clearly, the PSC must redress this violation of equal protection rights.”
Claudia Borecky, president of the North and Central Merrick Civic Association, also wrote a letter to the commission, explaining that “The people residing in the southernmost parts of North Merrick pay three times more than residents in the northern parts of North Merrick who get their water from the Town of Hempstead.”
She added that for those paying three times as much as Hempstead town residents for the same water, residents have serious concerns regarding their water, “ … with recent main breaks; lead, iron and volatile organic compounds discovered in our aquifers; the Grumman Plume’s migration into our service area; an increase in brown water and decrease in water pressure.”
While a sparsely attended public hearing on the matter was held in Oceanside in the afternoon recently, Jim Denn, spokesperson for the state’s Public Service Commission, told Your NewsMag that groups, organizations or individual residents can request another public hearing. He noted there would be time until the beginning of March 2017 to phone or email responses in.
In response, the NCMCA requested another public hearing in September, which has been granted.
To comment on the NYAmerican Water increase, visit www.dps.ny.gov, go to “search” and type in case # 16-W-0259.