Corsicana's City Council unanimously approved increases to water and wastewater rates Monday, July 8 at its monthly meeting.
Tabled at the Council's meeting on June 24 to give the public more time to respond, the proposed increase to volumetric rates for water and sewer services saw no discussion from residents during the public hearing.
The Council voted to approve the increase of 10 cents per 1,000 gallons for water and 20 cents per 1,000 gallons for wastewater. The increase will take effect November 1, 2019.
According to City Manager Connie Standridge, the average household using approximately 5,000 gallons will see an increase of $1.40 per month. Senior citizens, 65 and older, using at least 5,000 gallons will note an increase of $1.20 per month.
Currently, the utility fund is about $700,000 negative cash. Repairs and updates to the city's aging infrastructure along with dwindling water sales due to heavy rainfall have negatively impacted water sales.
In determining the rate increases, the Council referenced the 2019 Utility Rate Study, available for review on the city's website, which projects the ending balance of the utility fund through 2024.
The study projected that water and sewer funds would remain in the negative in 2020, however, by 2021 the water fund would enter the positive and by 2023 both funds are projected to be operating positively.
“It is a long-range plan to have the sewer and water come to a positive situation,” Standridge said. “The Council overall is required to operate the funds in a positive manner so that each component of that fund, the water and the wastewater, is paying its own expenses. This is a plan to do that.”
According to Standridge, the Council is required by bondholders, who buy the city's debt and invest in the system, to take whatever steps necessary to correct a negative situation, which means having a plan in place to do so as well as plans for future expansion.
Councilman Pct. 4 Jeff Smith added that a new water treatment plant at Lake Halbert, mandated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality when the system reaches 14 million gallons used per day, is estimated to cost $40 million.
Standridge says that expense could be put off for another five to 10 years, but growth of Corsicana and Navarro County will ultimately dictate that.
Councilwoman Pct. 2 Ruby Williams questioned whether the increase would cover the cost of updating the city's aging infrastructure. According to Standridge, the increase along with the city's continued budgeting and planning will help accommodate those expenses.
The city invested $5.2 million in infrastructure repair and replacement throughout 2018. In 2019, the projection is $4.9 million, rising to $6.2 million in 2020.
“Our goal is to try to make those expenditures every year to try to get ahead of the aging infrastructure,” Standridge said.
Last year water rates were increased 35 cents per 1,000 gallons, the first change of fees in the last four years. Standridge said that, although not guaranteed, based on current projections another rate increase should not be needed for the next five years.
“That's precluding the fact that we could have some kind of major issue,” Mayor Don Denbow said. “We hope that we wouldn't have those kind of situations, but we can't make that promise.”
Also approved by the Council was the abandonment of a utility easement parallel to Interstate 45, transferring ownership to the Texas Department of Transportation.
TxDOT will buy the easement from the city, which will use those funds to acquire additional easements to lay news sewer lines, funded by a grant received recently.
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