BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The Birmingham Water Works board is nearly $1 billion in debt and that want to raise rates to pay it. A vote to increase water rates 3.9% could come later this month.
Board members presented their budget to the public at a meeting Thursday night. In the presentation, board members explained their plains to reduce $957 million of debt to $755 million dollars by 2030.
Residents in attendance felt strongly that fixing the county’s debt should not be their problem.
“Well I’m scrambling already, there are no other funds I can reach and get,” said Mary Johnson. Johnson is on a fixed income and said it’s already difficult to pay her bills now.
The Jefferson County Commission president pro-tem, Lashunda Scales said the county recently allocated 1.25 million dollars to assist residents most affected by rising sewer rates. Scales pressured the board to match that amount to help with water rates, and they did.
“But at least it’s an attempt to try to correct a problem the consumer, meaning our residents, they didn’t start this problem, they’re just a part of having to assume the responsibility for it,” said Scales.
For the water works board to set that money aside, they’ll either have to take longer to pay their debt or increase rates.
“So there’s a lot of levers you can play with, but you can’t add it to the budget, keep the rates the same, and reduce the debt to the amount.”
If the 3.9% increase is passed, 600,000 people would be affected. The board could vote on the increase as soon as Nov. 26. If approved, the changes would be reflected on January bills.
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