by Costa Constantinides
New York homeowners and businesses had a little bit less in their wallets this year because of a twenty-year-old city policy that amounts to a back-door tax on the middle-class. This regressive tax can be found in the place we least expect it – in our monthly water and sewage bills.
Since 2006, the city’s Water Board has raised its rates by nearly 65% on homeowners and business owners partly in order to pay down debt. That cost is passed on to everyone. But worst of all–much of the bill increase has been unnecessary.
Mayor Bloomberg has taken advantage of middle class families by taxing more than is required to pay off the board’s debt. He has re-purposed the surplus monies collected and directed them into the city’s general fund to pay for non-water related services. He has continuously opted to take this residual payment instead of finding new revenue and sparing water ratepayers from increases. By doing this, the mayor has singled-out homeowners and small business owners with additional tax burdens. He has essentially raised taxes on those who can least afford it.
While families and small businesses across Queens are scrimping and saving, they are being forced to absorb continuous water rate increases which they may not be able to manage. This isn’t an issue of entitlements and intricacies in budget lines, this is a middle-class issue that affects New Yorker’s every day.
There is a better way.
The city’s Water Board should use the funds collected from ratepayers to put a final stop to these egregious annual rate increases. Alternatively, the board should use the funds for capital projects that will have a lasting impact, such as fixing water-main breaks and updating pipes. Improving our infrastructure will create jobs and ensure safe drinking water for our families for years to come.
I’ve lived my entire life in Queens and understand how important our homeowners and small businesses are to our community. To build a better Astoria and Western Queens, we need to all work together. Basic city services shouldn’t be paid for by small business and homeowners alone, and I urge the board to implement these changes to the rate system as soon as possible.
Costa Constantinides is a City Council candidate for the 22nd District, which represents Astoria, along with parts of Long Island City, Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst, and Woodside. Learn more at www.VoteCosta.com.