Jefferson County residents may have higher utility bills in 2024 as the county increases sewer rates, and those within the jurisdiction of Birmingham Water Works face a potential rate hike for the third year in a row.
Last week, the Jefferson County Commission passed a resolution increasing the sewer rate by 3.49%, equivalent to last year's rate hike.
According to reports, the 3.49% rate increase is necessary to refinance debt remaining after the county's 2011 bankruptcy, which the Jefferson County Commissioners are currently attempting to do. In 2018, the county agreed in a settlement with its creditors to raise rates by 7.9% annually for four years in 2018 and around 3.5% for the next three years.
Though not all Jefferson County residents will be impacted by Birmingham Water Works rate increases, the utility serves customers in most of Jefferson County and parts of four other counties in Central Alabama.
The Birmingham Water Works Board (BWWB) is considering a 5.8% increase in water rates for 2024 after raising rates for 2022 and 2023 by 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 proposed 5.8% rate hike has not yet been approved for 2024. The BWWB will host a public hearing on November 9 and multiple town hall meetings around the Water Works' jurisdiction to hear from customers.
The BWWB will have to approve the rate hike later this year for it to go into effect.
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