The City Council on Tuesday referred a proposal to require a $100 deposit from new water customers to its Budget and Economic Development Committee, which meets next week. There was also another water-related item on the agenda that I neglected to mention in my earlier blog post.
That was a mistake, because it almost certainly will affect more residents than a deposit requirement. That item was also referred to the Budget and Economic Development Committee.
The second proposal recommends raising a host of different fees and adding a new fee for customers who want their meter reread. Councilman James West was among the councilors on Tuesday who seemed queasy about raising or adding more fees in light of the city's recent water rate increase and the bad economy. "It seems like were just kind of nickel and diming people to death," West said.
Here's a summary of the water and sewer fee changes the city staff is proposing:
- LATE FEES: Change from $5 to 1.5 percent of bill with a $5 minimum base charge per month.
- DELINQUENT FEES: Increase current $20 delinquent fee charge to $50 at time of disconnection. (This is the fee customers get hit with if they are over 20 days delinquent and a service order is generated to terminate the account.) The proposal also recommends increasing the after hour reconnection fee from $10 to $50. The city estimates the higher reconnection fee would generate $100,000 in extra revenue if half the average number of evening reconnections agree to pay the higher fee.
- METER REREAD CHARGE: Customers don't currently pay to have their meter reread. The city performed 4,330 rereads last fiscal year. The recommendation is to charge a $35 fee for a reread. City estimates this could generate $113,000 a year and cover a portion of the cost of providing the service.
- SERVICE INTIATION FEE: Landlors and property managers are currently not charged the city's $50 initiation service fee for accounts. The recommended change is that landlords and property managers either register as a Utility Default Landlord, making them responsible for all charges associated to the premise or pay the $50 new service fee each time water service transfers back into their name. Estimated revenue benefit to city: $160,000.
- TAMPERING: Increase tampering fee from $42 to $100 for each offense.
- METER REMOVAL AND RESET: The city currently charges a $42 removal and reset fee when a customer has tampered with their meter multiple times. Staff recomments increasing this charge to $125. Estimated revenue benefit to city: $25,000.
City staff contends that the fee increases and new charges will simply put Raleigh in line with what other utilities charge and help pay for some of those services. (The proposed fee increases could come back up for discussion by the full City Council in two weeks.)
What do you think? Is Raleigh nickel and diming people to death, as Councilor West suggested?