Proposed Cleveland water rate increase now headed to city council for a final vote

Average consumer asked pay 80% more over 5 years

CLEVELAND - Cleveland committees approved a water rate increase Monday after being told it's the only way to keep up with water department improvements and operational costs, sending the bill on to a full-council vote.

If passed, the rate hike has some customers worried about how it will affect their pocketbooks.

Chelsea Formick is a Cleveland resident who works hard to pay her bills every month. Formick has been working as a downtown hot dog vendor for more than a year, and owns her own home.

Word of the proposed Cleveland water rate increase has left Formick wondering if she'll have to work a second job.

"There are so many people who can barely pay their bills," said Formick. "I can't pay it, not way."

Cleveland's utilities, finance and legislative committees have given approval to the water rate increase, and the measure is now headed to a full vote of Cleveland City Council on Monday night.

The rate hike would call for an 80 percent increase for Cleveland residents and a 50 percent increase for suburban users over the next five years.

If approved by city council, the average water consumer would see an $11 increase in their bill this July, and an additional $20 for 2012.

The rate hike would affect 1.2 million residents in three dozen Northeast Ohio communities.

Consultants for the Cleveland Mayor's Office reported that if the rate structure is not increased, the future of the Cleveland Division of Water as a city asset will be severely threatened.

Consultants for Cleveland City Council confirmed water usage is down by 38 percent over the past 20 years, causing a dramatic drop in water department revenues.

"Every time you sell less water it directly hits your revenues," said consultant David Hyder. "Your rate structure is so dependant upon revenues."

Consultants told the Cleveland Utilities Committee a rate increase is the only way to meet costs for critical water department improvements and growing operational costs.

Meanwhile, Cleveland residents like Chelsea Formick tell NewsChannel5 that a rate increase will hurt their already strained budgets.

"I only make about $60 a day, how am I going to afford this," said Formick.

NewsChannel5 and newsnet5.com will have the latest on Cleveland City Council's water rate hike vote, as soon as the information becomes available.

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