The city of Syracuse is proposing a new water infrastructure replacement fee, after the common council just approved a 4% increase to the water rate. The revenue generated by the fee would go towards replacing water mains that consistently break and are past their useful life.
Water sales have been going down for the city, consumption has dropped 8% since 2016, and the cost of labor and benefits only continues to grow.
“So, it’s made it very difficult for the city to apply the necessary investment into replacing our infrastructure, especially since everything is getting old, and these unplanned emergencies really draw down our revenue,” Commissioner of Water Joe Awald said.
Speaking to the council at a committee meeting last week, Awald said the proposed fee is a fixed monthly rate based on water meter size. For the average homeowner, a 50-cent fee would be added to their monthly bill, totaling about $6 a year. The bigger the meter, the higher the fee. It’s expected to generate about $440,000 annually. Awald said the fee is designed to address some of the city's larger infrastructure needs.
"Bigger entities that need bigger infrastructure, bigger meters, that cost shouldn't be pushed down to the residential users," Award said. "It should be recouped from those users who need it."
Councilors like Latoya Allen worried about how residents will see another tax, after the city just raised the water rate during the budget process.
“Because the conversation is going to be, it’s an increase, no matter how much it is, it’s going to seem like we’re taxing them again,” Allen said.
Councilor Joe Driscoll suggested trying to leverage some infrastructure funding from Onondaga County and the state, in addition to the fee. The city still needs to work out some details before there is a council vote.