Tucson Water to slash extreme customer bills
Photo: Video by kgun9.com
CREATED Feb. 22, 2012
Reporter: Kevin Keen
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Relief is on the way for Tucson Water customers drenched by big bills, but questions are trickling in about how to pay for it.
Tucson City Council asked the water department to find new ways to help customers soaked and surprised by those large monthly charges, which can be caused by an unknown leak or sprinkler line break at a home. The request came after unhappy customers shared their stories of large bills with the council and with 9 On Your Side during our recent investigation.
At Wednesday's council study session, Tucson Water representatives first reported on progress the department's made replacing outdated water meters and improving customer service.
Then, they moved on to the issue of extreme monthly bill and their policy on how to handle them. The proposal: customers would still pay for water used, but at a lower rate through a "courtesy adjustment" made to their bill.
While the department didn’t know just how much those new adjustments would cost due to lost revenue, a spokesman estimated it could be up to $1 million a year. That’s on top of the $1 million in annual adjustments the department already said it makes to help make extreme bills more manageable.
Councilmember Paul Cunningham wanted to know: Would everyone's rates be raised to generate the money needed for the policy change? “If we implement this pilot program right now and I don't have any leaks and do I exactly the same, is my water bill going to go up?” he asked Sandy Elder, Tucson Water Deputy Director. Elder answered: “Mr. Mayor, Councilmember Cunningham: No, we're going to absorb this in our current operating budget by shifting costs around and making it work.” A Tucson Water spokesman told 9 On Your Side the required budget changes haven't been figured out.
Cunningham followed up, asking: “And if we do see a significant loss in revenue later down the road, we'll have the option whether to raise rates or go back to the old policy, correct?” Elder answered: :”That is correct.”
Mayor and council agreed to give the new adjustments a try for a few months to see how they work.