City water rates will increase 8%

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By SHELLY WILKISON

City water customers will notice an increase in their water bills beginning in January 2018.

The City Council voted 4-1 Monday to implement an 8 percent rate increase. With all Council members present, only Liz Rundzieher voted no.

The minimum monthly charge for most residential customers will increase from $31.24 to $33.74 in the city. Residential customers outside the city will see an increase from $39.05 to $42.17.

Water usage charges for all customers also increase by 8 percent. Residential customers in the city who use from 1,000 to 10,000 gallons will pay $4.43 per 1,000 gallons compared to the current rate of $4.10 per 1,000 gallons. Residential customers out of the city will see an increase from $5.12 per 1,000 gallons used to $5.53.

Most residential customers have a 3/4-inch meter, and most small businesses have a 1-inch meter — minimum monthly rates vary by meter size. Rates for a 1-inch meter will increase in the city from $78.10 to $84.35 per month.

The last time the Council adopted a water rate increase was October 2014.

City Administrator Greg Boatright urged the Council to adopt the rate increase to avoid “kicking the can down the road”.

“From my perspective, if we don’t do 8 percent, we’re still going to be okay, but we’re just kicking the can down the road,” he said, “and looking at what we could do with our system and increasing and expanding some of our lines and replacing some of the old infrastructure.”

Boatright said an expected influx of new water customers in 2018, which is reflected in the current budget, along with the rate increase will provide more stability for the water fund enabling the City to explore other options with regard to expansion of the system to serve customers to the west where new developments are in the works.

Boatright said in fiscal 2016, the City saw 120 new water customers.

“We will see that continue and outperform that, so our water sales will increase,” he said. “I think we can safely say we will see a 10-12 percent increase in our water sales.”

He said if Council chose to underwrite the water fund debt in anticipation of the projected growth, that would be okay. However, the system’s expenses are increasing.

“Our expenses are increasing because we have an aging system,” Boatright said. “The more we defer that, the bigger that’s going to be in future years.”

Rundzieher, who voted against the rate increase, said she believed the growth would put the water fund’s finances in good standing.

“I myself feel like with all the subdivisions going up along (CR) 279, with the hookups and the water they’ll be using, it might take a year or two years, but that should bring our water system up to where money-wise it should be,” she said.

“I believe this 8 percent is more like a maintenance fee,” said Council Member Ron Rhea in making the motion to adopt the rate increase. “To me, the talk about old wells and tanks…the old saying you can pay me now or pay me later. If you kick the can down the road, it will be more expensive.”

Boatright explained that the City purchases water from Leander for the customers served by the Bagdad (CR 279) water line. Those costs are higher than for water provided by in-city water wells — $2.74 per 1,000 gallons compared to $0.65 per 1,000.

Boatright said that in fiscal 2016, which ended Sept. 31, the water fund budget was propped up by a $500,000 infusion of bond proceeds from the Bagdad water project, plus $200,000 was moved there from fund balance. The current budget was built with the 8 percent rate increase — even though Council would consider it after the budget was adopted.

“If you take all that away, we’re actually under water for our budget on our water,” Boatright said. “If we do nothing, we will be upside down in the water fund.”

Also Monday, the Council approved in a 3-2 vote a Professional Services Agreement with Houston-based CP&Y for Phase Two of the City’s Transportation Plan for $79,913.

Once complete, the plan will provide for implementation of one-way streets in the downtown area, provide for connectivity with planned corridors from other jurisdictions leading to Liberty Hill, consider adjustments to the alignment of the SH 29 Bypass, and develop guidelines for an extension of Stubblefield.

“I know we’re going to spend this money, but that’s a lot of money to spend for a transportation plan,” said Council Member Jon Branigan, who voted no. Also opposed was Wendell McLeod.

In other business this week, the Council continued public hearings on annexation of the Abbott Tract and a zoning change on the Abbott Tract. No comments were received. The Council then approved ordinances annexing the property and approving the zoning change to Single Family High Density (SF-3).

Additionally, the Council:
– Adopted an ordinance amending the final budget for fiscal 2016
– Approved a recommendation from Planning & Zoning Commission to approve the preliminary plat for Summerlyn West Residential subdivision located behind the existing Summerlyn subdivision, and
– Terminated a Professional Services Agreement with NewGen Strategies and Solutions.

News@LHIndependent.com

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