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The housing allowance for troops living off base at government expense in Germany and Italy increased at the start of August, reflecting the rising cost of utilities and maintenance, according to 266th Financial Management Center officials.

The increase, which kicked in Aug. 1, will be reflected in end-of-month pay statements.

An overseas housing allowance survey conducted earlier this year told military finance officials what troops living off base already knew: "The price of utilities, of gas, oil and everything went up," said the center’s Master Sgt. Patricia Hamilton, who works in finance operations.

The center, an Army activity, only handled the allowance surveys for Germany. Allowance surveys in Italy are managed by the Navy.

The survey scrutinized troops’ costs for utilities, such as oil, gas and water, and resulted in an 11.2 percent jump in Germany for the portion of the allowance that covers those expenses.

In Italy, the increase was 17.8 percent.

Troops with dependents in Germany will see an increase of 61 euros per month; those in Italy will see a 113 euro rise.

Troops without dependents will see a 45.75 euro rise in Germany, and 84.75 in Italy.

Capt. Shawn Schulze, who also works in finance operations for the 266th, said the allowance probably could have gone up even more in Germany if more people participated in the survey.

About 47 percent of eligible respondents — including members of all services — took the Germany survey, which ended in April. That’s a higher response rate than Germany-based troops usually give, but pales in comparison to response rates in Italy, where about 78 percent of eligible respondents took part in the last housing allowance survey.

"But then we have to take into consideration, too, that we had a lot of soldiers that were deployed," Hamilton said.

Nevertheless, the increase was good news to Air Force Master Sgt. Mike Lund, a member of the 435th Security Forces Squadron, who took part in the survey.

"The thing that’s really killing us is the utilities," Lund said. "I’m burning 135 euro a month just on gas." He also burned about three cubic meters of wood to heat his home over the winter at a cost of about 240 euros, he said.

Army Capt. Stuart Coleman, who just moved out of his off-post residence in preparation for a move back to the U.S., said that the overseas housing allowance had seemed to be enough.

But when he went to settle up with the utility companies, "I had to pay a final bill that was a little bit higher than I thought," he said.


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