New Baltimore County billing system causes confusion over water, sewage rates

Posted at 6:18 PM, Aug 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-15 18:18:04-04

Baltimore County taxpayers saw an increase in their water distribution and sewer rates for the third year in a row.

The County announced there would be increases last year, but there's still been a lot of confusion and complaints over why and how the county is calculating the new bill.

Bobbie Roberts, a 20-year Towson resident, was concerned when she opened her most recent bill.

“How am I going to pay that bill?,” asked Roberts.

She owed $715 for something called the “metro service charge.” The metropolitan service charge is the combination of the sewer usage and water distribution charge. According to their website, the County combined the two charges to be more transparent. 

“No it wasn't. It was almost like something was being hidden,” said Roberts.

Roberts can no longer see a breakdown of her water consumption and the water distribution for the last year, but technically that doesn't matter since the County based this year's tax bill off of 2015 water consumption plus water distribution then added an 8.4 percent increase to that sum.

”I don't understand how they can take last year's for this year and then add more onto it,” said Roberts. “I'm at a loss, I'm really at a loss.”

ZBA Property Management also contacted ABC2 to express concerns over the new billing system.

County officials did not agree to meet with ABC2 for an in-person interview and instead opted to answer questions over email. They wrote in part:

“This year's rate setting was challenging due to the large number (150,000+) of Baltimore County accounts being switched to new water meters. As a result, this year the County based the Metro District bills on a percentage increase over the July 2016 bills.” 

The percentage increase is being used to pay for significant improvements to Baltimore County’s aging water and sewer system that will help eliminate sewage spills.

Infrastructure is something most people would agree needs to be dealt with, however, with a 35 percent increase in just three years, it's become difficult for hard-working people like Roberts to afford all the fees.

“I am a senior citizen. I have my own cleaning business but it's getting tougher and tougher every year for me to work, and for me to worry about how I'm going to pay for these things that keep getting higher and higher and higher. I just don't understand,” said Roberts.

The rate increases started in 2015 with a 15 percent increase. In 2016, there was a 12 percent increase. Before 2015, the rates hadn’t been changed since 2010.

As far as increases and billing for 2018, the County said no decisions have been made yet.

If they keep the new billing system, they say future bills will be more consistent and will not fluctuate as much based on water usage.

There were also a number of incorrect property tax bills sent out this summer. Revised bills were mailed in the last few weeks.

RELATED: Incorrect property tax bills sent to Baltimore County homeowners

For more information on Baltimore County tax bills, click here.