N.O. residents may pay less than expected for water rate hikes - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

N.O. residents may pay less than expected for proposed water rate hikes

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New Orleans, La. -

Orleans Parish residents may not have to pay as much per month as expected in rate hikes by the Sewerage and Water Board.

The board will soon consider a 10 percent rate increase, as opposed to 12 percent.  It's a proposal that would lessen the impact that the proposed S&WB rate hike would have on resident's monthly bills.

In an executive committee meeting Friday morning, Marcia St. Martin, the executive director of the Sewerage and Water Board, explained, "That could be spread out over an eight-year period with 10 percent per year, beginning in 2012 and ending in 2020."

The committee voted to forward the idea on to the board of directors. They'll meet in two weeks to review the idea, then a final proposal will be submitted to the City Council.

Orleans Parish residents that we spoke with say they're not in favor of any type of rate hike.

"It's just a bad time to raise price on anything, no matter what but especially something like this, in the way that they're doing it," resident Jake Staples said.

Reginald Dixon commented, "I cannot afford to pay no Sewerage and Water Board raise and that's it."

The S&WB staff say they need the rate hike to pay for much-needed maintenance to the water and sewer system. St. Martin explains, "Because of the amount of deferred maintenance in the last 30 years, there's a significant likelihood of major system failures within the next five to 10  years."

But resident Justine Hall said, "You got problems, the streets, you say you'll use this money to help with streets, repairs and stuff.  But when people call, look how long it's taking you to come and fix things."

St. Martin says the money garnered from the proposed rate hikes would also go towards hiring additional S&WB staffers.  That could help offset those long wait times for street projects. In fact, about 180 jobs would be created by 2020 with the new revenue.

St. Martin says the board also needs the rate hike to help build up its cash reserve -- money that would be needed in the event of an emergency, like a hurricane.

The City Council will have the final say on this proposal, so ultimately they'll decide whether Orleans Parish residents will pay any more on their water bills.

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