It’s good that the chairman is concerned about higher water bills. But there would be no need for the rate hike if the county government wasn’t taking $20 million out of its Cobb Water System piggy bank to help balance the county budget. Lee, who sits on the water authority board, has acknowledged as much, saying “it was not a happy moment” when the money was put in the budget.
The water authority staff “will be looking at financing options to try to reduce the amount of that increase over the next several weeks,” general manager Glenn Page confirmed in an e-mail. The next wholesale rate hike of 8 percent is scheduled for January 2013 and will be passed on to the Cobb system unless a reduction is engineered.
Senior project manager Kathy Nguyen of the Cobb system told this columnist that she expects the 8 percent increase will be reduced. “We anticipate it will go lower,” she said.
If the past two years are an indication, the increase will wind up at 6 percent. That was how much the rate went up in January 2011 and again in January 2012 — a total of 12 percent in just two years. And now we’re looking at probably another 6 percent for a whopping 18 percent jump in water rates in three years.
The cost of water in Cobb increased at nearly twice the 2011 national inflation rate of 3.16 percent. And the 6 percent hike this year is more than three times the August 2012 inflation rate of 1.69 percent. It’s nearly as bad as the rise in gasoline prices. This week the average was $3.88 for a gallon of regular, 28 cents higher than at this time in 2011, an increase of nearly 8 percent for the year.
It’s no big deal if you hold down your water consumption to the average of 6,000 gallons a month which costs $61.03, according to the Cobb Water System website. But those rate tiers will eat you up if you do any serious watering.
Last January the scheduled 8 percent increase was reduced to 6 percent, per the system’s website, because the water authority cut its increase to Cobb Water from 11.5 percent to 8 percent. The system was “also able to lower our wastewater increase from 4 percent down to 2 percent because Cobb Water reduced FY11 operating expenses.”
The obvious question of why rates are raised in a bad economy is answered thus: “Rate adjustments are needed to generate adequate revenue for proactive water and wastewater infrastructure replacement, for increasing power chemical and sludge handling costs, and the completing of large capital projects like the South Cobb Sewer Tunnel.”
And they help finance county government which is using water rate hikes as a revenue source — a no longer hidden tax.