Birmingham Water Works Board now considering 3.9% rate increase

Published: Oct. 26, 2022 at 4:53 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 26, 2022 at 5:00 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The Birmingham Water Works Board is now considering a budget based on a 3.9% rate increase, down from 4.9% suggested last week and significantly down from the original 8.3% we reported a month ago that generated public pushback.

This proposed budget would be up 8.1% from 2021.

If BWWB approves the proposed 3.9% rate increase for 2023, their budget assumes a 4.9% increase for the next five years. Combined with the annual sewer rate increase baked into the Jefferson County bankruptcy settlement, water and sewer customers face 8% rate hikes through 2028.

“We’ve got to get our costs down,” said BWWB member and Finance Chair Larry Ward.

Ward supports nearly $2M in cuts found in the operating budget since last week’s meeting.

To make the proposed rate increase match the BWWB spending plan, the board is being asked to change its financial policies about how much of its capital plan it pays from debt.

The BWWB has voted to present a 3.9% rate increase to the public at a hearing Nov. 9, 2022.

In the BWWB meeting held Wednesday, Oct. 26, former BWWB GM Mac Underwood also discussed the billing problems audit results Jonathan Hardison broke last night and confirms WBRC’s reporting.

Underwood said BWW went a full calendar year without having caught up on backlog of billings from Aug. 2021 – July 2022. He then pointed out that a report that was in use when this system was put into place in 2017 wasn’t being used last November through this year, and it could have shown all unbilled accounts and helped catch some of these issues.

BWWB GM Michael Johnson said 2,713 accounts are still behind as of Oct. 26 and he believes utility has “caught up”.

BWWB staff has also recommended terminating lobbying contracts with Pat Lynch and former Congressman Hilliard when they expire on April 15 which would save the board $164K.

See more 6 On Your Side Investigates stories on Birmingham Water Works here.

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