The Hampshire Village Board has deftly created a way to have residents believing their water and sewer bills are going down instead of up.
It’s a move worthy of the man who wants to be the next Republican presidential nominee, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty campaigned on a no-new-taxes platform and has used his veto pen liberally to enforce his pledge; meanwhile, local taxes, fees, surcharges and other methods of taxing are occurring, but he won’t have to take the blame for any of it.
In Hampshire, the board agreed earlier this month to raise water rates 14% and sewer rates 16%. At the same time, the board approved outsourcing the billing so that utility bills will be sent to residents every other month instead of quarterly.
Brilliant, I say!
Last quarter, I was charged $169 for water, sewer and trash. Under the new rates, that same useage would cost me $186 a quarter. But, under the new bill timing, my bill will be only $124 for two months.
For the uninformed who don’t attend village board meetings and don’t read the newspaper, it will look like their bills have dropped. They’ll probably pat themselves on the back for using less water. They’re probably not keeping track of the last bill they got, so when they get another one a month sooner, they won’t even realize it.
To be clear, I’m quite happy to pay for water. Thank God for clean water. I’m thrilled to pay for sewer, which allows me to easily flush away some of the ickiest things in life. And I am over-the-moon grateful for the garbage man, who tidily takes care of the rotting carcases and leftover detritus of my life.
And I can even understand rate increases in a growing community that has probably had to expand facilities to accommodate so much new home construction (not necessarily in the past year, but certainly in the recent years before that).
But to raise rates while changing the billing — that seems like subterfuge to me. Brilliant politics, maybe, but not entirely authentic.