NEW ORLEANS -- The City Council will consider a controversial and massive rate hike to sewerage and water rates for residents and businesses. Mayor Mitch Landrieu called the vote one of the most important in the last four years.
If the council approves the rate increase, residents will see their water bill increase 10 percent per year for eight years. For example, a monthly water bill of $52 -- the average bill for residences in the city -- would be $112 per month by 2020.
Council President Stacy Head has asked the vote by the full council be delayed, allowing more time for input from city residents, business and property owners.
"The public is not terribly aware," she said, "which is why I am working so hard to let the public know that this is coming. Because we do need to have different constituency groups and individuals find out more about this rate increase."
Mayor Landrieu, however, is asking the council to approve the rate hike immediately, at the Thursday's council meeting.
"It is time now to bite the bullet," Landrieu said before the Chamber of Commerce Wednesday. Because of the condition of the city's water system he expressed "amazement" that anyone would move to slow the vote on the rate hike.
The rate increase is expected to produce nearly $580 million, which would go toward improving the city's crumbling sewer and water infrastructure by purchasing bonds and combined with federal dollars to pay for $3 billion in repairs.
The Bureau of Governmental Research is supporting the increase, as, even with the dramatic rate increase, water bills would be similar to "peer" cities such as Cincinnati, Louisiville and Charleston. There are concerns in how the money raise will be used.
"The part, I think, that we've struggled the most with was the operations and maintenance piece. That's a significant part of the money -- 40 percent of the funds are going to that -- and there is not really a plan that explains how that money will be used," said Janet Howard, of the Bureau of Governmental Research.
The heavy rate hike has drawn concerns about the impact on residents, especially those low-income residents and elderly home owners who live on a fixed income.
The council meeting begins at 10 a.m.