St. Louis Plans to Reduce Water Rates
By spending $25,000 for a general reinspection of the city of St. Louis, Mo., Collector of Water Rates Claude B. Burton has added $107,441 to the city revenue in less than four months, notwithstanding that water rates have been decreased under his regime. The full benefit of the reinspection has not yet materialized, and it is evident that $400,000 will be added to the water department revenues this year. The largest part of this increased revenue will come from residence and apartment house owners west of Grand avenue, and from large manufactories. It means that the vast majority of water consumers will have $400,000 shaved from their bills next year when water rates are readjusted, due to the fact that they will no longer be required to pay that portion of the just debts of a small element. Burton’s inspectors have found apartment houses that have paid no water license in years, and innumerable residences where only half or a third of the proper license was paid. Large industrial plants have been found paying no water license or only a small portion of that which the law requires them to pay. Even office and store buildings have been found escaping water taxes. All that one consumer evades must be borne by other consumers, as the law requires that water rates shall be maintained high enough to defray all the expenses of operating the water department and paying off the bonded indebtedness. In the last fiscal year, ending April 7, 1912, the water revenue was $2,176,000, and it is almost a certainty that it will be increased to $2,575,000 this year. There is a surplus of $1,200,000 in the water department fund to-day. with only $800,000 of bonds maturing in 1914. In order to prevent the accumulation of an enormous surplus, the municipal assembly will be forced within a year to revise water rates downward in a substantial manner. The total bonded indebtedness of the waterworks is now $1,500,005. When $800,000 of bonds is retired in 1914, there will be a liability of $2,700,000 which matures in two sections, in 1926 and 1931. For the next decade, at least, it will have to be the aim of the water department to keep its revenues down to about $2,000.000 a year, less than it has been for the past four years. Collector Burton has made public these figures for the period April 9 to July 31, 1912, which showed collections of $743,976.06. From April 11 to July 31, 1911, the department collected $636,534.80, which makes the excess for the same period this year $107,441.26. The reinspection had not progressed far enough at the beginning of the present fiscal year to furnish a complete basis for estimating the increased revenues which will result. It is now in full swing, however, and in the next four months the revenue will be much greater than in the four months just ended.