Are Richmond water fees a hidden tax pooling into city funds?

Posted at 7:26 PM, Oct 03, 2012

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)--The cost of using Richmond City water caused big protest at City Hall and is now causing some to question where water service fees are going.

"They’re simply charging this phony cost to drive up your water bill," government watchdog Paul Goldman said.

Richmonders pay $49 dollars a month just to be connected to the water supply; that’s before using any water.

What many water customers likely don’t realize is that a good portion of the fees collected go directly into the city’s general fund, where city leaders then get to decide how to spend it.

In the upcoming budget, over $12 million will be collected from water fees and another $12 million collected for wastewater. In all, about $25 million from collected water fees will be put into the general fund .

"They should put it out in plain form what you're paying for because actually they don't have everything that you're paying for on here," water customer Sylvester Rogers said.

Goldman feels the fee should be explained in detail on water bills, especially the fact that the money goes directly in to the hands of city leaders.

"Make up an imaginary cost in order to make people pay more on their water bills, which adds up to millions a year," Goldman said.

Richmonders paying water bills in city hall Wednesday said they too are curious to know where the fee goes.

"They can't explain it when you call, they can't explain it and it's awful," one customer paying a bill said.

Customers hit by the tough economy claim that paying bills is hard enough, without hidden fees and taxes. They feel a basic service like water should be costing the average person much less.  

"They're adding the little hidden fees, so it's almost like they're trapping you," customer Matthew Chambliss said.