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Any position the Regulated Industries Commission (RIC) reaches on the Water and Sewerage Authority’s (WASA) rate increase application will take into consideration the fact that if properties are assessed upwards in the Finance Ministry’s current valuation exercise, their water rates will also be increased on that basis.
An RIC communication spokesman confirmed the position yesterday after questions arose on the impact of WASA’s rate hike application—now being considered by the RIC—and the Valuation/Property Tax exercise.
At a meeting yesterday of Parliament’s Land and Physical Infrastructure Committee, committee member Wade Mark asked WASA chairman Romney Thomas if there would be an automatic increase for properties resulting from the current Valuation/Property Tax exercise.
The Finance Ministry’s Valuation Division is currently on a drive to value properties to populate the valuation rolls in preparation for implementation of the property tax.
Thomas said under current law regarding WASA, if properties were assessed upwards, a higher water rate would apply. But, he said, under that law WASA would only be allowed to charge a maximum of $304 per quarter for residential owners for instance, “It can’t go higher than that,” Thomas added.
During the meeting, Thomas said WASA was awaiting the outcome of the RIC’s examination of its rate increase application. WASA has applied for rate hikes for the domestic (householder) and commercial classes.
Contacted by T&T Guardian on the possibility of a rate hike granted by the RIC plus water rate hikes from upward valuation of properties, RIC officials dispelled fears that two water rate hikes might occur.
They said the RIC, in examining WASA’s application, is taking into consideration the fact that water rates can be increased if property values are assessed upwards.
They said the RIC hasn’t taken a position yet on WASA’s application and when the position is finalised, it will be put out for public consultation. They said RIC is still in the process of examining papers on the WASA matter.
At yesterday’s parliamentary meeting, Thomas said, WASA hoped to get its rate hike from the RIC since it will be able to replace its ageing infrastructure, which contributes to leaks. Some pipes in its 7,000 network of lines date back to 1854 and are still in use.
Thomas said the rate hike will be reflective of operational costs, but wouldn’t offset capital expenditure,
“And even with an increase we’ll still rely on Government, but we hope an increase will reduce our reliance on the Treasury and bring us closer to meeting the costs we have,” he said.
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