It’s no secret these days that co-op and condo operating costs are going through the roof, so to speak, and boards and managers are all looking for effective ways to generate cost savings. Building management looks at fuel and energy usage regularly, but one often-forgotten area is water usage. Doing a cost analysis is a good way to determine if your metered building is paying its fair share or is being overcharged by the utility company or a city agency.
Questions about water billing began surfacing last year when the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) began installing Automated Meter Reading (AMR) systems to monitor customers’ water usage. Residents in Eastern sections of Queens started seeing what they thought were inflated bills, and asked New York City Council members James Gennaro, D-24, and Mark Weprin, D-23, to investigate.
Action on the water rate hikes also took place in the state Assembly, where a bill, A02672, introduced by Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Holliswood) and co-sponsored by Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside), proposed to limit increases sought by the New York City Water Board to no more than 5% annually or the current rate of inflation. The bill currently sits in the Assembly’s Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions.
Council Member Dan Halloran, R-19, who represents Whitestone, said such a measure is long overdue. “High water bills hit middle class families and homeowners in the forms of higher rents and maintenance fees,” Halloran said. “They’re another hit to the already-vulnerable pocketbooks of Queens families, who are struggling to make ends meet as it is. By limiting the amount the rate can go up every year, we will force the Department to tighten its belt and cut waste on the massive projects that have put it in this situation."
The nearly double-digit rate increases the past five years are not only hitting Queens’ residents, says Alan Rothschild, who is the president of Vantage Group, a tri-state water conservation and cost management company. Increases passed by the New York City Water Board were 9.4% in 2006-07; 11.5% in 2007-08; 14.5% in 2008-09; 12.9% in 2009-10; 12.9% in 2010-11; and the aforementioned 7.5% on July 1, 2011.The July 2011 increase will make 2012 the 15th consecutive year with a rate hike,” adds Halloran. The average Queens family will now pay an extra $61 annually in water fees, but others may pay up to $877 more per year.