The Phoenix Water Department wants to raise your rates another 7 percent next year.
That's on top of a 40 percent water rate increase over the past five years. And there is more coming: The Water Department is seeking rate hikes of 7 to 5 percent every single year out to 2016. Those are cumulative increases, which behave like compound interest.
Here's the proposed rate hike schedule:
• March 2011 - 7 percent increase
• March 2012 - 7 percent increase
• March 2013 - 6.25 percent increase
• March 2014 - 5.5 percent increase
• March 2015 - 5 percent increase
• March 2016 - 5 percent increase
The staff recommendation for a rate increase once again demonstrates that they are more interested in protecting themselves than protecting you and your families.
The only way we can stop this insanity of fee hikes is for you to get involved and voice your concerns. Otherwise you will continue to face higher taxes, higher fees and receive fewer services for it. Your voice is the only one that matters. Call, write, e-mail, fax - do whatever you need to do to make them pay attention at City Hall.
I am not convinced this increase is necessary for many reasons.
In preparing to sell this rate increase schedule, the Water Department noted that it was taking a 3 percent reduction in its budget. Given how every other business - and every family - has had to sacrifice to make ends meet in this economy, we don't believe that 3 percent represents much of a cost-cutting effort. It's dismal, as a matter of fact.
Raising rates by 40 percent in the past five years, then cutting the budget by 3, then setting an annual rate increase much higher than the inflation we've experienced for years isn't convincing evidence of a hard try at managing resources.
The city claims it made sacrifices and cuts. It did, in fact, cut some departments, only to transfer people to another. Rates would be raised to pay for this shift. I call this the worker shuffle.
During the budget process this past year, the Water Department had more than 200 job openings it was protecting (city staff whose positions had been changed got first crack at those jobs, before the public). The department plans to have 165 of those slots filled by the end of 2010. It expects to fill the other in the coming year.
These rate hikes are no different than a tax increase. They certainly hurt our businesses, not to mention families, which already have been forced to cut back a lot more than a one-time 3 percent in this difficult recession.
I don't think they've tried hard enough to reduce costs before slapping on rate hike after rate hike, and I won't vote for an increase until I witness a lot more cost-cutting effort on the part of the city and the Water Department.
You shouldn't put up with this either. Please send this column out to others; let them know what is about to happen to them. This stacking of rate increase upon rate increase on you while the city pretends to make sacrifices will not stop until they hear your voice.
Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio represents District 6, which includes Ahwatukee Foothills. Reach him at email@example.com or (602) 262-7491.