Members of a commission studying ways to make water service more affordable in Detroit say it may be impossible to reduce the amount residents owe on their utility bills.
Detroit’s water bills became international news last year when the city shut off service to more than 20,000 people, drawing criticism from even the United Nations, which called it a violation of human rights.
Now a blue ribbon panel is examining ways to improve the affordability of water in Detroit. And the sheer numbers involved remain staggering.
About 200,000 Detroit customers are at least two months past due on their bills, while almost 40,000 are in a repayment plan to make good on past debts.
Some city officials have suggested water rates should be tied to a user’s income and ability to pay.
But members of the panel say that forgiving or reducing the debt owed by some customers could force the city to raise rates so that those who are paying their bills cover the full cost.
Commission members say it may be better to structure the rates so those who use less water pay less.