Friday, September 28, 2018

City Staff Want to Eliminate Water Conservation Credit

City staff recommend the cancellation of the 10% conservation credit for water customer users who consume 3,000 gallons or less on a monthly basis.  Not on the October 2, 2018 City Council agenda is staff's botched billing of the conservation discount since 2009.

Staff recommends the 10% conservation discount be removed.
Water Chief Allison Strube indicated in the decade long over-billing press release:

“Many of the customers who earn the discount currently are not actively seeking to do so,” Strube said. “They manage to earn the credit simply by circumstance, such as the case with a realtor briefly needing water service for an inspection or a single person living alone in a home. We want to create a robust conservation program that encourages our customers to actively take steps to save water.”
Horse hockey!  Our household regularly uses 3,000 gallons per month due to conservation.  We have low flow shower heads and water sparing toilets.  We have not operated our sprinkler system since our last major drought when Council worked hard to bring Hickory Water online.

At the time City Councilman Kendall Hirschfeld suggested the city not charge citizens the monthly base fee if they turned off their sprinkler meter.   That was never implemented.  Our contribution to conservation is low water use in the home and no sprinkler use in the yard.  For this we pay $100 a month in the smattering of water associated fees.  That's $33.33 per thousand gallons used.

The city wants to take away the 10% discount we received or were supposed to receive.  I haven't seen how much the city owes for not applying the discount since 2009.

Rather than come clean with Council on their decade long billing errors, city staff will propose taking away the conservation credit, the only means currently in place for citizens to get a portion of their ever increasing bill returned to them.

The Water Enterprise Fund Balance stands at $9.37 million as of 8-31-18, nearly twice the level the city cited as needed for a citizen rebate in November 2018.  Council dropped the regular review of the water fund balance for possible rebate.

There is no urgency to drop the conservation credit while staff look for other programs to incentivize conservation.  City Council should retain the credits until a substitute program can be designed, shared with the public and be evaluated for potential impact.

Update 9-30-18:  SanAngeloLive ran a piece on the proposed change.

Update 10-3-18:  City Council did not eliminate the conservation credit as proposed by staff.  They may in the near future when staff has another incentive program to offer in its place. 

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