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Baltimore City water tax increase raises concern for residents

Posted at 8:34 PM, Jul 02, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-02 20:40:05-04

As temperatures sore close to 100 degrees, community activists stand in front of city hall to protest the 9.9% tax increase for water usage in Baltimore City.

All of this happened in front of a free-flowing water fountain at city hall.

This July 1st increase is a part of the tax increase voted on by the Board of Estimates in 2016, to increase the water tax by 30% over three years.

Council member Zeke Cohen spoke against this tax hike.

"We must act now. Water is a humane right. We should move to an income-based billing system so that no one lives in fear of having their water shut off."

According to a study for Food & Water Watch, 53% of water bills will be unaffordable for Baltimore City households by 2019 with these tax increases. City officials who want this tax hike say it's necessary to keep up the aging infrastructure in Baltimore City, with some existing water lines dating back to the 1800's.

Pastor Mark James, of the Barnes Memorial Church, says he almost lost his church to a tax sale when they couldn't pay their water bills and agrees there needs to be a way to make water affordable in the city.

"We have to to be able to find some humanity in our governance. We have got to be creative in having resolutions to solve our financial woes," said Pastor James.

The group here says this rate increase will be very impactful for Baltimore City residents, especially senior citizens that have a fixed income.

"For senior citizens on a fixed income, they have to balance health care, food, rent, all kinds of necessity costs. In this 9% increase will really impact that," said Jim Campbell, AARP.

Campbell says there are about 900,000 members in AARP in Maryland and close to 300,000 may live in Baltimore city.  In 2008 the average water and wastewater bill were $319 now the average bill will be $860.