The Birmingham Water Works Board (BWWB) passed its fiscal year (FY) 2024 budget on Wednesday after adjusting proposed budgets to reduce next year's rate hike from 5.8% to 4.8%.

After proposing the 5.8% rate increase for 2024 in October, the Water Works held a public hearing in November and several town halls around its jurisdiction to hear from customers. 

According to the utility, the budget reflects input from the community, and the rate hike should add an average of $2.29 to its customers' monthly water bills. 

The 4.8% rate increase is still higher than the rate increase between 2022 and 2023, which was only 3.9%. 

Last year, the Birmingham Water Works became the focal point of harsh public criticism due to billing issues that have left some customers with suspiciously hefty water bills.

Thousands of customers in 2022 reportedly didn't receive bills for months at a time. Later, they received much larger or multiple bills all at once.

The bills were also not based on accurate meter readings but were estimations using previous months' usage. Birmingham Water Works blamed the issues on a lack of meter readers and insufficient staffing.

This inspired State Reps. Jim Carns (R-Vestavia Hills) and David Faulkner (R-Hoover) to introduce a bill to overhaul the BWWB and reorganize the structure of its members in this year's legislative session. 

Though the bill received a favorable report from the House Commerce and Small Business Committee in April, lawmakers postponed the bill indefinitely at the end of the regular session.

The BWWB's FY 2024 Operating and Maintenance Budget totals $132,003,955.71, and its capital budget totals $83,711,540. Together, these budgets total over $215 million, an approximately $18.1 million increase from FY 2023's total.

"We are dedicated to ensuring that every drop of water we provide is not just a resource but a Lifeline," said Water Works general manager Michael Johnson. "With our FY 24 budgets, we're not just investing in pipes; we're investing in the safety, reliability, and uninterrupted access to clean water. The feedback from our community and our financial diligence have been instrumental in shaping budgets that align with our customers' needs and our strategic goals. We are excited to move forward with our initiatives and to continue providing top-tier water services."

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