Wednesday, August 03, 2011

COSA Average City Water Bill to Increase 47.5%

The Standard Times reported on the August 2nd San Angelo City Council meeting:

The average monthly residential water bill, which is now about $31, will increase by $14.75. That is based on an average monthly usage of about 8,000 gallons.
That 47.5% increase sat at the very bottom of the article.  How will people afford the increase?  A property tax cut should help.  Unfortunately, the paper implied much of the cut is sleight of hand:

The San Angelo City Council gave preliminary approval to a property tax rate of 79 cents per $100 valuation — a reduction of 2 cents from the current rate. Under state law.

However, only one cent of the cut will be a "pure" tax rate decrease, as the council is expected to make up for the revenue lost for the remaining 2 or 3 cents by raising two types of fees.

The story didn't specify the two types of fees that would be raised.

There was no mention as to how the city plans to pay for or pass on health insurance cost increases, up 25% for other area employers.  Last year the city imposed draconian premium increases for employee and early retiree dependents.  Will they do the same again?

Council minutes from June 28 state:

Discussion was held on a proposed stratified pay plan and related percentages, proposed percentage salary rates for employees making less than $50k,  proposed innovations for better services and efficiencies, health insurance premium contribution rate and percentage, employee health committee, the percentage allocation for salaries from the general fund, decreasing the property tax rate, and increasing franchise fee rates.
No preliminary health insurance numbers were shared in the minutes or the paper.  The topic hasn't arisen since.

City leaders made two claims that seemed specious in their August 2nd council meeting.  First, they claimed Quicksand's request for raw water from Twin Buttes led it to require citizens water only on certain days of the week based on street address.  Those two items hardly seem connected.

The second odd claim came from Harold Dominguez, who stated the City was better off now than 2004.

The graph showed the city's current lake levels slightly above where they were in 2004, when they had reached a historic low.

Compared to that time, Dominguez said that the city is much better off and cited that as reason not to panic or enact restrictions that are too extreme. "We're really not close to where we were a few ago," he said.

O.C. Fisher is dry and Twin Buttes is going down daily.  For a memory jog, here's a GoogleEarth image of Twin Buttes during its dry time.

Harold's right, there is a big difference between 2004 and today.  It rained a lot in 2004, the15th wettest on record for San Angelo.  NOAA reported:

At San Angelo Regional Airport...The annual average temperature for 2004 was 65.0 degrees.  This was 0.5 degrees above the normal annual average temperature of 64.5 degrees.  Total precipitation for the year was 30.48 INCHES. This was 9.57 INCHES ABOVE THE NORMAL annual precipitation of 20.91 INCHES.

Harold should remember 2004's rains, given his hiring as Assistant City Manager in 2003.

The Texas Water Development Board shows Twin Buttes with only 5,894 acre feet or 3.31% of conservation capacity.  O.C. Fisher shows "no data."  Local lakes are sparse and dwindling in record heat and no rain.

"So there was a significant shift in usage and so by not using that water out of Twin Buttes first, we actually have it available now."--Harold Dominguez

In less than a month, Twin Buttes lost over 2,000 acre feet.  Harold says the city wasn't pulling from it.  Did it evaporate in our record heat?

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