Saturday, April 28, 2018

Allentown Water Rates May Soon Skyrocket

The Morning Call
Struggling Lehigh County Authority eyes raising Allentown rates as a large bond payment looms
"A big payment is due, future upgrades to Allentown’s sewer and water system will require more than $1 billion and the bank is nearly empty....

To raise more money, LCA board members will consider switching Allentown residents from a quarterly to a monthly billing cycle. The lease agreement between the city and LCA indicates the utility can charge a higher fixed rate on monthly bills.

Allentown residents would pay about $13 more per month.."

Well it's been about five years and we all knew the fiddler's due would one day arrive. Locally social media is all abuzz. What I found most interesting is the amount of ignorance. Well over half believe Allentown sold it's water department. Nearly half the other folks are confusing the Lehigh County Government with the Lehigh County Authority as if they were one and the same.

My position is this
Allentown made some really terrible deals on it's pension plans. If that weren't bad enough city leaders allowed the plans to become greatly under funded. Instead of biting the bullet having to increase city taxes in 2013 politicians decided to lease our water out. Thus kicking the ball into the Lehigh County Authority's court.

To Make A Long Story Short
If you're 50 deck chairs short, no matter how you arrange them you're still going to be 50 chairs short. In this case-- millions of dollars. The city got up front cash but everyone should have known money doesn't appear out of no where. Someone is going pay the piper eventually. In this case that day has arrived for water users. This is now making the LCA out to be the bad guy instead of Allentown's politicians At least that's how it's playing out on social media.

The Way I See It
This was a pretty slick move politically however did Allentown residents no favors. Either we paid through property taxes (and rents) back then or now like we are forced to do through water. All things being equal whether Allentown or the Authority had to borrow it will end up costing pretty much the same. Although I'm not thrilled about my water going up 35% this was inevitable.

There is another option the LCA could take. One I'm adamantly opposed to. They could increase their Allentown division's rates to the authority's other division of clients in the suburbs. However I feel it would unscrupulous to force the brewery, water bottlers and other users in the suburbs to pay for Allentown's pension screw ups.

As much as I dislike using water funds in a round about way to pay for past pension shortfalls this lies in the fault of Allentown by cutting this deal in the first place some five years ago. A pickle we wouldn't be in if it were not for Allentown's neglect in creating this situation long before 2013. This all started a much longer time ago by the previous mayor before Pawlowski was elected.

As far as I'm concerned this is entirely on us period. Not the LCA nor expecting others to make right. I hold them in no way responsible for the woes we visited upon ourselves.

Here's a link to a brief look back.
     An article published in the 'Express-Times on October 24, 2013.

It isn't like Allentown water users should be surprised. Unanticipated expensive project costs were discussed by the LCA on March 14, 2016. It was made quite clear Allentown's water is a separate division. One which it's customers are responsible to pay for .

Click here for the 04/23/2018 LCA meeting
where all this was discussed

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