Further Review: City Council Will Study Water Rates for Homeowners in Effort to Evenly Distribute Costs

The Revere City Council held off on action to fully revise the city’s ordinances relating to water rates for homeowners, but the Council did approve an amendment by Councillor Patrick Keefe that would reclassify five-and-six-family owner-occupied homes in a residential [as opposed to commercial] category that would result in lower payments for those homeowners.

Prior to the vote by the Ways and Means Subcommittee, Chair Dan Rizzo said that the issue needed further exploration.

“I rather take a little more time and look and see if we can have a definitive place where we can shift these costs,” said Rizzo.

Ward 2 Councillor Ira Novoselsky, speaking as a tenant on Dehon Street, told his Council colleagues that in 2018 the City Council passed a water-rate change that included an ordinance “that made three-family homes and below as residential homes, and in general, four-family homes and above as commercial.”

“The City didn’t take any action on this to change it until this past year (July 1, 2022),” said Novoselsky. “The rate went from $16.31 to $26.93 for these homes. We figured out that there’s 50 owner-occupied homes in the city that are affected: 30 four-family, 10 five-family, and 10 six-family. It costs these [homeowners] approximately an extra two thousand dollars a year.”

Several owners of four-to-six family homes expressed concern about their higher water bills and tax bills.

Annette Gold, a long-time homeowner appearing at the meeting with her husband, Marvin Gold, said, “We paid residential water [rates] for at least 62 years, and then all of sudden you changed it to commercial [rates].”

“We have 10 tenants in the whole house, but unfortunately with the increase of the water rates, I can’t raise my tenants’ [rent]. Because of COVID, I had to work with them because their hours were cut down and they really couldn’t afford it, so they were paying me piecemeal, but they did pay me.”

Gold said she asked the Council to “change [her property] back to residential” and take her off the commercial listing.

“I’m here just to ask to be changed back so we can afford our expenses and live there without having this big burden [of higher water rates],” concluded Gold.

Revere CFO Richard Viscay told the Council that the difference in residential versus commercial rates for the four-to-six-unit buildings varies from $2,000 (four-unit) to $2,500 (five-unit) to $4,000 (six-unit).

“I’m not here to advocate one way or another. I’ll let you decide, but these dollars will have to be recaptured through [an adjustment of] water rates ultimately. So whatever cuts we make to certain classes of property, that will be redistributed to everybody,” explained Viscay.

Ward 4 Councillor Patrick Keefe said there have been as many as ten meetings about the water rate issue.

“We were very close to the finish line of granting this for the owner-occupants of Revere,” said Keefe. “I put this [measure] in last year. We have entire year to do it this year. I think we owe it to the citizens of Revere to do it in a timely fashion, to try to not change it too much, but when we try to do this overarching program, it fails. I believe in it for the entirety of the city, and we have a responsibility to act.”

Other councillors also expressed the desire to make it an equitable process for homeowners financially.

“How do we determine what’s fair?” said Ward 6 Councillor Richard Serino. “I want to do this for these people, but I also want to do it in a fair way that’s fair across the board for owner-occupied residences across the city.”

Ward 5 Councillor Al Fiore suggested cutting spending in certain city departments during the discussion about water rates.

“I’m sure we can discuss it during the budget process, Councillor, but right now I’m just here for the water rate discussion,” responded Viscay.

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