Freeholders oppose request for increase in water rates

The Monmouth County Board of Freeholders has passed a resolution opposing a decision by the New Jersey-American Water Company to seek a 20 percent rate increase.

“Elected county and municipal officials have demonstrated a sensitivity to taxpayers by cutting spending against the tide of risingexpenseswhilefacedwitha2percent cap,” Freeholder Director John P. Curley said. “The New Jersey-American Water Company should share in that responsibility and help reduce the unprecedented financial burdens on our residents.”

According to a press release from the county, the Voorhees-based company serves 2.5 million people in 17 New Jersey counties, including Monmouth County. The increase is being sought to help pay for $300 million the company has invested in infrastructure. American Water, the parent company with operations in 35 states and Canada, reported net income of $33.9 million in the third quarter of 2011 — about 7 percent more than in the same period in 2010.

“Local governments in New Jersey are doing their part to contain costs and find new and innovative ways, such as sharing services, to ease the burden on residents,” Freeholder Deputy Director Thomas A. Arnone said. “The New Jersey-American Water Company needs to tighten its belt like everyone else.” According to the press release, the New Jersey-American Water Co. received rate increases in 2008 and 2010. Since 2004 it has received a compounded rate increase of 51 percent.

If the pending request is approved by the state Board of Public Utilities, the new water rates will increase the company’s net income by about $95 million. For the average customer’s monthly water bill, it will increase by $7.10, or 23 cents per day, according to the county.

“Water is a precious commodity and something we all need, but for many people the vast array of government services are also a necessity,” Freeholder Lillian G. Burry said. “If government can cut costs and continue to provide excellent services, it seems the water company should be able to do the same.”

“The New Jersey-American Water Company should look inward for cost savings,” Freeholder Gary J. Rich said. “I would urge the BPU to deny this request and force the company to absorb those costs.”

“Many people in Monmouth County and elsewhere in New Jersey are struggling just to survive,” Freeholder Serena DiMaso said. “Now is not the time to ask your customers to pay more for water.”