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Char-Meck Utilities Requests Rate Hike

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department says it needs to raise water and sewer rates by about 6 percent for the average customer to keep up with rising gas and electricity prices. Residential customers who use large amounts of water for irrigation will see a rate hike of 9 percent. CMUD spokeswoman Karen Whichard says revenues from rates aren't keeping up with costs. She says demand from customers has decreased because of the recession and housing slow-down, "so that's part of it. The other part of it is people are using less water as they become more efficient, which is great." Several years ago, the city adopted a tiered rate structure to encourage water conservation. That led to lower water use, so the city last year added a flat fee of about $6 to the average customer's bill. Those funds are meant to give the utilities department a more stable source of revenue to improve pipes, pumps and treatment plants. Whichard says capital improvements are 60 percent of CMUD's budget. The latest rate increase still needs city council approval.