BALTIMORE — Following weeks of contentious meetings discussing water billing issues and potential rate hikes, an independent commission will review the Department of Water Bureau customer billing operations, the Baltimore City Department of Public Works announced Tuesday.
Bills are being proposed at City Hall and in Annapolis to protect residents from rate hikes and the threats of losing their homes due to unpaid water debts. The findings of the independent commission will be shared with the public, the DPW said.
“We spoke with a large number of customers during our community engagement meetings, and one message we heard is that we need to provide even more information to build confidence in our billing operations,” said DPW Director Rudolph Chow in a statement. “We need to demonstrate the bills we send to our customers meet or surpass industry standards. We always strive to be timely AND accurate.”
The city is currently in the midst of an effort to move away from an older billing system, updating meters and changing from a quarterly to monthly billing schedule, the DPW said. The schedule change is aimed to make each bill more manageable while also allowing customers a more frequent view of their water usage, potentially helping spot an issue before it manifests into a larger, more expensive problem.
The Baltimore City Board of Estimates approved a 30 percent rate hike to the city’s water system in early January. The increase will be phased in over three years, with a roughly nine percent increase each year on July 1. The rate hike is expected to increase the water bills of a family of three by roughly $8 a month, working out to more than $300 a year by 2022 compared to current water costs.