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Water rates to increase in Buffalo for first time in seven years

Property taxes in the City of Buffalo went up this year.

So did garbage user fees. Both increases were the first ones since 2006.

Now Buffalo residents above the poverty line will see their water bills increase by $5 a month beginning Jan. 1 under a new rate structure from the Buffalo Water Board.

Low-income customers will get a $60 annual credit on their water bills and will not see an increase in rates. Very low-income customers will get a $90 annual credit and will see their bills decrease. It's part of a new Residential Affordable Water Program for qualifying customers, who will have to apply to the program.

Additional water increases under the new rate structure will be applied to customers with large water meter capacities, such as public facilities and commercial and industrial businesses.

It's the first rate increase in seven years, according to Water Board officials in a written statement on Friday.

Reasons for the rate increases include "significant investment" required for the city's aging infrastructure, cost increases for operations and maintenance and necessary capital improvements, according to the statement.

Water Board officials were not immediately available to answer how much revenue they expect to generate from the rate increases or how much money is needed to do the capital improvements and to meet the increased costs for operations and maintenance.

Earlier this year, the Buffalo Water Board partnered with the US Water Alliance to form the Water Equity Task Force to develop a new rate structure aimed at creating equity between industrial, commercial and residential customers, while considering the financial needs of the water system. The task force worked with stakeholders such as Groundwork Buffalo, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, PUSH Buffalo and the Western New York Environmental Alliance.

The water rates are not the only increases rolled out by the city since July.

In the 2018-19 budget, residential property taxes increased by 3.4 percent and commercial property taxes by 5.5 percent.  For homeowners, that translated into $60 on a home assessed at $100,000. For commercial properties assessed at $100,000, it's an increase of $146.

Before that, Mayor Byron W. Brown had kept steady, or trimmed, property taxes every year since 2006.

Also in the current budget, increases in the garbage user fee range from about $17 to $38 and $68 over the old fees, depending on the size of the garbage tote. The increases would make the solid waste fund self-sustaining. Like the property taxes, the fees had never been increased during Brown's 12 years in office.

Tax, fee hikes approved in Buffalo's budget


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