Phoenix residents will pay 7 percent more for water starting April 1, according to a water-rate increase approved by the Phoenix City Council on Feb. 23. The increase will affect students living in Phoenix and may also apply to residents of Taylor Place.
Dan Chelgren, a sophomore at the Walter Cronkite School who lives in the Roosevelt Square Apartments on Portland Street and Central Avenue, said that even a small increase would have an effect on students.
“Obviously if there’s an increase in a bill of yours, especially a college student such as myself, it’s never a good thing,” Chelgren said. “But I understand that some things need to be done.”
The proposed increase caused controversy among some Phoenix residents, who sent over 500 letters and e-mails to council members in the days prior to the meeting, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said.
Those in favor of the change said that water is a necessity and funds are needed to keep Phoenix water clean.
Those opposed to the rate change said the city government was putting the burden on the taxpayers instead of cutting government spending. Some said Phoenix residents should not bail out the city government for its poor spending choices.
In response, Phoenix City Manager David Cavazos said the city cut the rate increase from an original 12 percent to the current 7 percent.
Cavazos said the city’s water services slashed $620 million from its budget, cut managerial positions and became more efficient in its operations in order to reduce the rate increase.
Cavazos also said the down economy played a role in the reduction, and that the city did not want to overburden its residents.
“We did work very hard because of economic concerns … to cut this increase,” Cavazos said.
Chelgren said the city budget cuts made him feel as though the city government was trying to shoulder some of the burden, not just give it to taxpayers.
“It shows that they’re trying, and doing everything they can to not leave the citizens with all their problems,” Chelgren said.
Kiali Wong, a journalism junior who lives at Taylor Place, said she hopes the downtown dormitory’s management will consider the hardships on students when addressing how to handle the water-rate increase.
“You want to hope that they’d do their utmost to minimize the financial hardships on students,” Wong said.
However, the rate increase may cost Taylor Place residents, according to Chad Izmirian, senior vice president of Capstone Development, a company involved in building Taylor Place.
Izmirian said Taylor Place receives its water from Phoenix, so an increase in the water rate will create an increase in expenses. Those expenses may be passed on to students, Izmirian said.
Taylor Place could implement water-saving strategies to cut their water usage, as opposed to charging students more to live at the dormitory, Izmirian said.
“One (strategy) is being more water-conscious in the building,” he said. “We have a lot of mechanisms in place to reuse water.”
Some of those mechanisms are dual-flush toilets in all of Taylor Place’s rooms and a system that reuses water condensation from air-conditioning units.
Nathaniel Fish, director of operations at Taylor Place, said in an e-mail that the rate increase will likely increase the cost of water supplied to Taylor Place. Fish said he doesn’t expect the rate increase to have an immediate impact on how much students pay to live at the dormitory, however.
“Taylor Place’s rental rates are already established for the 2011-2012 school year so a change in rate to the water supplied to the building would not likely be felt by residents this coming year as those rates are already established,” Fish said.
For Wong, even if Taylor Place increases the utility fee charged to students, that increase will most likely be a “drop in the bucket” compared to the overall cost of living at Taylor Place.
Wong said that even a full 7-percent increase to the utilities fee would not deter her from living at Taylor Place next year. The convenience and security would be worth the extra cost, she said.
“But if that number continued to rise, you’d have a different story,” Wong said.
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This article has been revised to reflect the following clarification:
Clarification: March 3, 2011
This article was updated at 4 p.m. on March 3 to include an official response to the Phoenix water rate increase from Taylor Place management.