By Councilwoman Terry Cohen
In today’s Daily Times article about the potential 25% water/sewer rate hike (http://www.delmarvanow.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080519/NEWS01/805190301/-1/newsfront2), the paper stated the following:
Tilghman said she did not recommend a water and sewer rate increase last year because citizens were already experiencing a double-digit tax hike -- 12 percent.
I interviewed with the reporter late last week and stated this about myself, so I think the reporter inadvertently attributed this to Mayor Tilghman. I am sharing this correction with the Daily Times so they can take the opportunity to correct the mistaken attribution.
As many will recall, the mayor had proposed a 10% water increase (no sewer increase) last year, and Councilwoman Campbell and I opposed it. The council majority of Smith, Comegys and Shields passed it. The administration had provided incomplete information about the fund surplus, upon which knowledge the council majority joined us in rescinding the hike.
In her budget message, Mayor Tilghman said, “Last year the Council declined to implement a modest increase in water and sewer rates based upon the amount of funds in the Water/Sewer Surplus.” Again, the mayor did not recommend a sewer rate increase for Fiscal Year 2008, having increased this rate multiple times in the last several years.)
As I told the reporter, I did not consider 10% to be “modest,” especially in conjunction with a double-digit tax hike. Whether a scenario of dramatic increases for one or two years can be avoided will depend on the political will of the council majority to join us in seeking alternative solutions to revenue generation.
The mayor, by withholding the Water/Sewer Fund Surplus Financial Forecast from the council for nearly a month, has cost the council precious time during the budget process to look for solutions that can be applied in the coming budget year. The mayor also declined to take a position on what to recommend and did not follow through on her April 15 press conference pledge to hold “discussions with the council” about the financial forecast, to “collectively make decisions in a comprehensive way,” as she stated in her budget message.
Instead, Councilwoman Campbell and I urged that the mayor join the council in a work session for these neglected “discussions” and to share her recommendation, and the other council members did not object. This work session will take place in a work session on the Water and Sewer Fund tomorrow, Tues., May 20, from 4-6 p.m. in Conference Room 305 on the third floor of the Government Office Building (next to the city clerk’s office). We encourage members of the public to attend and observe.