The Revere City Council held off on action to fully revise the cityâ€™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.
â€œI rather take a little more time and look and see if we can have a definitive place where we can shift these costs,â€ 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 â€œthat made three-family homes and below as residential homes, and in general, four-family homes and above as commercial.â€
â€œThe City didnâ€™t take any action on this to change it until this past year (July 1, 2022),â€ said Novoselsky. â€œThe rate went from $16.31 to $26.93 for these homes. We figured out that thereâ€™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.â€
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, â€œWe paid residential water [rates] for at least 62 years, and then all of sudden you changed it to commercial [rates].â€
â€œWe have 10 tenants in the whole house, but unfortunately with the increase of the water rates, I canâ€™t raise my tenantsâ€™ [rent]. Because of COVID, I had to work with them because their hours were cut down and they really couldnâ€™t afford it, so they were paying me piecemeal, but they did pay me.â€
Gold said she asked the Council to â€œchange [her property] back to residentialâ€ and take her off the commercial listing.
â€œIâ€™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],â€ 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).
â€œIâ€™m not here to advocate one way or another. Iâ€™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,â€ explained Viscay.
Ward 4 Councillor Patrick Keefe said there have been as many as ten meetings about the water rate issue.
â€œWe were very close to the finish line of granting this for the owner-occupants of Revere,â€ said Keefe. â€œI 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.â€
Other councillors also expressed the desire to make it an equitable process for homeowners financially.
â€œHow do we determine whatâ€™s fair?â€ said Ward 6 Councillor Richard Serino. â€œI want to do this for these people, but I also want to do it in a fair way thatâ€™s fair across the board for owner-occupied residences across the city.â€
Ward 5 Councillor Al Fiore suggested cutting spending in certain city departments during the discussion about water rates.
â€œIâ€™m sure we can discuss it during the budget process, Councillor, but right now Iâ€™m just here for the water rate discussion,â€ responded Viscay.