Five-year increases in water rates approved by council

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Abilene City Council has adopted a five-year pricing plan for water services which Rodney Taylor, the city’s water utility manager, said should better cover existing expenses and ultimately contribute reduce the interest costs of longer-term projects.

A typical residential water / sewer bill, with 5,000 gallons of use, rises from $ 56 per month currently to $ 57.50 in 2022, then gradually increases over the following fiscal years to a high of 81. $ 75 in 2028.

Around 2035, those rates could potentially be adjusted downward, making that typical bill a recurring amount of $ 72.88, depending on the plan.

Rate adjustments, Taylor said, are necessary to generate the revenue needed to fund capital improvement projects, staffing adjustments and other growing expenses in the department.

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The increases include adjustments to customer service charges based on meter size and volumetric charges. Water and sewer rates are being adjusted.

The changes come after the council also approved master plans for water supply, sewage collection and its water treatment plants, and forms the basis of a five-year plan to fund $ 57.35 million in priority projects.

The department’s proposed budget for 2022 is $ 10 million different from the previous year, Taylor said.

Part of this figure includes the transfer of $ 6.2 million to a fund specifically for capital projects.

Other elements of the increase include an increase in the franchise tax, increases in the costs of chemicals and necessary equipment purchases.

Floating near the top

Using the 5,000 gallon example, Abilene’s water tariff is higher than that of Killeen, Carrollton, and Odessa, but cheaper than that of Grand Prairie, Wichita Falls, Midland, Denton, and Waco.

Assuming these entities don’t increase their own rate – an unlikely scenario, city officials said – this will put Abilene at the second highest rate after five years, $ 76.50 for a typical 5,000 customer. gallons.

That’s still below Waco’s current rate of $ 87.07 for the same water and sewer use.

For commercial customers, using a sample 50,000 gallon bill, Abilene goes from the fourth most expensive in the current fiscal year to the most expensive of those same cities in five years.

The current rate is $ 469, while the five-year rate is $ 684.50.

For a larger user like Coca-Cola, Abilene’s rate drops from $ 48,454 now to $ 68,580 in five years.

That’s still below San Angelo at $ 73,478 and Midland at $ 104,210 for estimated usage of 9.5 million gallons.

The Dyess Air Force base goes from $ 91,295 for 15.5 million gallons of use to $ 135,160, two more below San Angelo’s current rate of $ 142,748 and $ 175,522 in Midland.

Spend wisely?

Robert hanna

One of the main reasons for the rate hike is to avoid issuing debt for large projects, Taylor said, which could save about $ 66 million over time through cash financing.

The strategy significantly reduces the total interest paid on new debt issuance over a 40-year period, according to the documents provided.

“We are paying less debt and we are getting more value for taxpayer dollars by using that money to build projects rather than paying interest,” Taylor said.

Drought response strategies over the past few years have left the city with existing debt that must be repaid, while its water-related master plans have left it with around $ 407 million in project needs, spanning in the distant future.

“The savings from not paying interest could be used for $ 66 million in additional capital investments,” Taylor said. “Or you can lower your rates at some point and pass those savings on to your customers. “

Taylor said the estimated savings “could potentially be double, depending on what the bond interest market looks like going forward.” “

Staff requirements

Taylor also presented the board with a “suitably sized” employment plan for the water utility, which would allow the utility to catch up in areas such as repair and maintenance of hydrants and hydrants. water valves and meet other needs, including information technology.

This would impact staffing adjustments of $ 959,848 in 2022, according to information provided to the board.

City manager Robert Hanna said he approved of the additional staff, which he said would allow the department to better deliver “general bread and butter” service items that had generated customer complaints over the years. last four years.

Rising expenses

In 2016, the city’s water services department announced infrastructure needs of around $ 280 million, Taylor said.

“There is a national and even a global discussion about infrastructure,” an issue in Abilene as well, Taylor said. “… I offered to take things head on and deal with them.”

Information from each of the board-approved master plans has been consolidated into a single capital improvement plan, Taylor said.

All three plans had around $ 578 million in suggested projects, he said.

After removing duplicates, conflicts and factoring in projects already underway, that figure was adjusted to about $ 469 million worth of viable projects, Taylor said.

“We divided them into minor and major categories,” he said.

Large projects, amounting to around $ 407 million, “is the challenge we face over the next few years,” Taylor said.

“We have a notice of violation for some of the capacity issues and pressures in our system,” he said. “Several of these projects are specifically intended to address this. “

Brian Bethel covers city and county government and general news for Abilene Reporter-News. If you enjoy local news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.


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