Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins wants to cut water-use charges for the city’s senior citizens by 25 percent, but to provide that discount only to senior households with annual incomes of $30,500 or less. City Council should approve the mayor’s plan, including its means test.
Mr. Collins’ proposal to roll back water rates is not perfect, but he is trying to offer financial relief to residents who need it most. Toledoans who qualify for the state’s property tax homestead exemption — senior citizens and other homeowners who are permanently and totally disabled — already get a 25 percent discount on their water and sewer bills, regardless of income. Mayor Collins’ plan would increase the discount on the water-use portion of some customers’ bills, but would not include storm-water and sanitary-sewer costs.
During last year’s mayoral campaign, candidate Collins pledged to increase the senior discount on water bills from 25 to 40 percent. His new proposal does not include across-the-board reductions, but its relief is targeted where it belongs.
If council members approve the plan, the water portion of a bill for a typical homestead customer would decrease from $12.34 a quarter to $9.87. These amounts may seem negligible, but for those who barely get by, every bit helps.
Applying a means test to the discount is appropriate for new homestead customers. Customers who currently receive discounts but have incomes over the proposed threshold would not lose those reductions unless they move.
This program is structured for older Toledoans who are poor — 80 percent of the nearly 22,000 consumers who qualify for the homestead exemption. The water bill rollback plan can help keep the neediest Toledoans from losing their water service. Council should support it.
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