Using public water will cost about 2 percent more in Atlantic City next year, mainly to cover the increasing expense for Atlantic City Municipal Utilities Authority worker healthcare.

Benefits will cost the authority $2.1 million in 2013, which is $226,500, or 12 percent, more than the $1.9 million spent on that during 2012, according to the authority’s preliminary budget for next year and a statement announcing a public hearing this Thursday on both matters.

Health benefits went up last year, too, but that increase was less than $89,000, or less than half of the most recent jump.

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The MUA uses the state health benefits plan. In the authority’s experience, the state plan has proven the least expensive, so officials have not researched switching providers to save money, Executive Director Neil Goldfine said.

Federal and state water quality standards also require the authority to replace its granular activated carbon. To replace half of the carbon in 2013 will cost cost $80,000. The authority plans to replace the other half in 2014, according to the statement.

The authority previously paid for the carbon — “a critical component of the MUA’s water treatment system” — in 2008, when the cost was wrapped into the budget for its filtration plant renovation project, according to the statement.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled to begin 10 a.m. Thursday at ACMUA headquarters, 401 N. Virginia Ave., Atlantic City.

The authority’s Board of Directors will take a final vote on the budget at its meeting Dec. 19. That public session also begins at 10 a.m. at ACMUA headquarters.

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