What happens when water and sewer rates are too high for at least a third of households to afford their monthly bills? Presently, Baltimore’s solution is to keep hiking the rates. This isn’t going to work out, says one economist.
Roger Colton, author of a recent report that says Baltimore is in a “downward spiral” with water and sewer billing, will be on hand tonight at Studio 4 downtown to discuss solutions for the utility situation that he and others argue is getting out of control.
By Colton’s calculations, the city’s three-year, roughly 30 percent hike on water rates will leave more than half of Baltimore households earning median income (relative to their neighbors) with unaffordable monthly bills by 2019. For the one-in-four city households living at or below the poverty line, Colton argues unpaid bills will only pile up as rates increase, leaving the city with even more missing utility revenue and an incentive to again hike water and sewer rates in order to compensate.
The Department of Public Works says the steep rate increases are needed to pay for federal court-ordered infrastructure repairs. More preferable, Colton and water-affordability advocates say, would be an income-based billing system that collects at least some revenue from city dwellers, based on how much income they’re bringing in. Philadelphia is currently piloting such a program.
Local nonprofit Jews United for Justice has organized a panel discussion tonight about the situation. Baltimore City Del. Mary Washington, who’s championed water affordability as an issue in recent years, will join Colton and the Rev. Dr. Alvin J. Gwynn Sr., president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Baltimore, on a panel.
“Baltimore’s Water Crisis – A Lose-Lose,” starts at 6:30 p.m. at Studio 4, located at 235 Holliday Street. Admission is free. Click here for more info or to RSVP.
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