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Eagle Ford: Stockdale to see increase in water rates
STOCKDALE -- City of Stockdale water users can anticipate an increase in their bills after the new year begins. While the Stockdale City Council discussed the water rates during its budget hearings, the council learned that the rates must increase to meet the requirements suggested by a study conducted by the Rural Community Assistance Program.
Raul Gonzalez of the Rural Community Assistance Program, a nonprofit organization that provides technical assistance to rural areas and contracts with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), expedited a water rate study and provided a letter of condition to the council during its Dec. 11 regular city council meeting.
The study and letter are needed to comply with one of the requirements of the USDA Rural Development loan package the city applied for recently. The $975,000 loan is for water system improvements, including improvements at the water plant and the laying of 12-inch waterlines.
The study, as presented by Gonzalez, spans the period 2013-17.
Gonzalez said the city needs a one-year debt repayment to be held in a reserve, plus an additional 2 percent capital cost, or approximately $83,845, to meet this requirement. This is a requirement from the USDA and the Texas Water Development Board. The yearly payments for the $975,000 USDA loan are $44,549 for the next 40 years. The first payment, due in 2013, will be $32,906. Since the city had not received the loan proceeds as of the Dec. 11 meeting, the first payment will be decreased to reflect this.
One issue that did not sit well with City Manager Banks Akin was a growth factor of 1 percent. Akin said the number was too low, since the next audit will reflect an increase by almost 50 customers from 659 to 700.
Gonzalez said he had to use historical numbers for his study and could not use the new numbers presented by the city manager.
A second issue met resistance from city Councilman Becky Adams. Gonzalez recommended increasing the city’s base charge for all water customers, including commercial use.
Adams questioned, “Why now?”
The council had discussed the rates during the budget season and the strain any increase could cause those living on fixed incomes.
Gonzalez said fixed income residents use approximately 2,000 gallons per month, versus the median use of 5,000 gallons per month.
“We can discuss the rate increase now or in October; we will be visiting this,” Akin said.
Gonzalez said the city needs to increase the rate as soon as possible to be in compliance.
The council approved the rate study as presented, with a rate increase as proposed. It is anticipated the rate could go into effect in 90 days, after the appropriate public hearings are held.
The city has changed the rate several times since October 2008; at that time, the first 3,000 gallons of water cost residents $16 per month. For those outside the city limits, the rate was $24 for the first 3,000 gallons.
In November 2009, the city limits rate increased to $20 for the first 5,000 gallons. Outside the city limits, customers had their rates increased to $28 for the first 5,000 gallons.
The rate remained the same in 2010 for residential users, but the number of gallons was reduced to 3,000. Outside the city limits, customers saw the same decrease in the first gallons used. A commercial rate was also added.
In 2011, the council again changed the water rates. This time, a base rate of $20 for residential users was established, with a step rate thereafter. No changes for outside the city limits were made.
In 2012, the council did not increase the base rate, except for those outside the city limits or in the ETJ (extraterritorial jurisdiction). The ETJ base was set at $28.
During the meeting, the council also addressed another possible increase, in the city’s sales-tax rate.
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