Frederick will promote existing programs to help people who fall behind on their water bills, but delaying a planned increase in the city’s water and sewer rates is not likely.
Alderman Roger Wilson had proposed a plan to push back the increase in rates scheduled for July for six months to help city residents who have been laid off or had other financial difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic and gotten behind on their bills.
It became clear during a budget discussion with his colleagues Wednesday that the proposal had little support.
The rate increase adopted by the aldermen in November included a five-year schedule.
The city would lose about $615,000 in revenue if it delayed the rate increase for six months, Director of Budget and Purchasing Katie Barkdoll told Wilson during a virtual meeting of the mayor and aldermen on the city’s proposed budget.
They would lose about $103,000 if they pushed it back 30 days, but it would be hard to tell the fiscal cost without knowing when the city’s state of emergency ends, Barkdoll said when Wilson asked about the implications of delaying the increase that long.
Wilson said he had no problem with the fee structure, but said there should be something the city can do to help residents during the “unforeseen crisis” of the pandemic.
Mayor Michael O’Connor said there will already be a 30-day extension on bills after the state of emergency ends.
The city approved a program within the last year in which customers can choose to round their water bill up to the next dollar, with the extra money going to a fund run by the Frederick Community Action Agency to help residents who are struggling with their bills.
The city also has a program that helps residents who have fallen behind on bills set up a payment program.
Wilson said after the meeting that he was disappointed his colleagues weren’t interested in the proposal.
People will have been at home for two months when the crisis is over, which means water usage will have gone up, he said.
“The least that we can do is be sensitive to that,” he said.
Wilson said he plans to work with O’Connor’s office to get data on water usage, and see what policies they can put in place.