Utica, NY (WIBX) - The Mohawk Valley Water Authority held a public hearing last night on its proposed budget with a possible rate increase.

And, maybe you can chalk it up to the weather, but nobody spoke at the water authority's public hearing on a proposed two-percent increase in water rates that will take effect April 1st if approved.

Executive Director Patrick Becher says the public can still mail in their comments or speak before they vote on the $20.3 million dollar budget next Monday on the third floor of Utica City Hall.

Becher expects the budget will pass.

"Well, I think unless the board hears something dramatically different, or changes their opinion, I think their in agreement, and I support as well, that we have struck a good balance this year between our responsibilities to the system--to the pipe structure--and, again, being mindful of the customer's ability to pay," he said.

A few reasons for the rate hike include increases in annual payments to the State Retirement System and health insurance premiums, in addition to a decline in interest earnings on reserve accounts and federally mandated improvements to the treatment plant.

Becher says to keep future costs down, the water authority needs to grow. For example, he says a big business like a microchip plant would use a lot of water, or more importantly, surrounding towns could connect to them.

"The regulations that are affecting us will affect smaller systems around us in just a few short years," he said. "They are going to be faced with the same challenges of making the upgrades and either raising their water costs dramatically by spending a lot of money, or, perhaps, the alternative is connecting to us."

He said if the plan in 2004 went through to expand the water system, without the state of  New York blocking them, residents would have seen no rate increases over the past five years. And, no increase this year.

If you would like to mail a comment to the water authority, the address is 1 Kennedy Plaza, Utica, NY 13501.