City Council discusses water rate price increase

TUCSON, Ariz. - The price of water was at the forefront of the discussion during Tuesday night's Tucson City Council meeting, as the Council approved to move forward with the intent to increase certain rates and schedule a public hearing.

The suggested rate increase would take place over several years, from fiscal year 2019 to 2022.

Ward 1 Council Member Regina Romero explained her concerns with the suggested rate hike.

"I'm a believer in making sure that we have a secure water resource for this city," Romero said. "I'm not too sure that I'm completely convinced that we can put a five year plan in front of us and give the thumbs up to a 27% increase."

Typically, she says she would support a rate hike. However, she thinks this proposal will cause too much of a financial burden for many Tucsonans to handle.

"For me, the biggest concern is locking in a five year plan with the amount of increases that it shows, so it's a 27.2% increase," she said. "I don't know if I can move in that direction. Planning is important for the future, but it's just the amount of the rate increase that I feel uncomfortable with."

Ward 6 Council Member Steve Kozachik says the system rewards those who make an effort to conserve water.

"Out rate structure does incentivize conservation," he said. "The less you use, the less you pay. If you're a big water user you're going to pay more. That's totally appropriate, again, we live in the desert."

Kozachik believes the proposal will be beneficial for the city, as it sets a long-term plan.

"Our water department is extremely well run. One of the hallmarks of that is that they're taking a long term look at number one, conservation," Kozachik said. "Number two, how they can build in to their own management model, methods that we can make sure that 10 years from now there is still a healthy utility."

There are still many hoops that need to be cleared, before anything becomes concrete. The city will host three public town hall meetings on March 29, April 5, and April 10, to listen to Tucsonans' input. There will then be a public hearing on the matter, scheduled for May 22, 2018. 

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