The County Council has been considering amendments to the county’s laws regarding public water and sewer. Future amendments should include better disclosure of rate increases and billing formulas.
Current water bills include a rate card with the water rates but no notice or explanation of rate increases. The county’s website gets an F for disclosing such information. And some of the information it does disclose is outdated. Future rate cards accompanying bills should include rate increases and explanations of them, including a link to a county webpage with detailed information going back at least a decade.
The county should clearly disclose the Environmental Protection Fee is imposed locally, not nationally, and that one must multiply the increase in the EPF and misleadingly named “water rate” and “Capital Fee” for an accurate overall rate increase, which has far exceeded the inflation rate in recent years.
Our politicians love to tout their commitment to open government and have implemented correspondingly beautiful websites that are chockful of information. Alas, for disclosing controversial information, such as water rate increases above the inflation rate, our politicians get an F.
Disclosing accessible information about water rate increases would allow our politicians to demonstrate their commitment to transparency is not mere posturing.
Given that politicians have strong incentives to hide any fee or tax increase that leads their constituents to pay more for the same service, this may be a tough sell. Nevertheless, as an essential element of democratic accountability, the public should demand it.
Source: Snider, J.H., Anne Arundel Gets an F for Water Bill Transparency, The Capital, Nov. 6, 2020. On November 20th, the director of public works for Anne Arundel County responded to this letter by justifying the rate increases rather than acknowledging that it had hidden them from the public. See Phipps, Chris, Here’s help understanding your Anne Arundel utility bill, The Capital, Nov. 20, 2020.