As Corpus Christi discusses a new stormwater charge, it’s important to remember that we already have a utility and stormwater charge. Stormwater is paid for the water charges that each of us who has a meter pays on our bill each month.
Our fees are not low compared to other cities in Texas; they’re very high, in fact. It is the result of the use of the storm water fund to pay for the replacements of pipes, curbs and gutters carried out during the reconstruction of the streets. Other cities don’t, so our stormwater fund has three times as much debt when it only has one-third of San Antonio’s customers.
The simple solution to improve the financing of the maintenance of our storm water system is to transfer the new debt for street works to bond packages, and as the old debt is paid off, use that money to improve the debt. ‘maintenance.
We were the first major city in Texas to operate a stormwater service paid for out of utility bills. We’ve been doing this since 1989. We have done it for the same reasons other cities have done more recently. Drainage is normally funded by property taxes, but due to the high cost of public safety and state restrictions on tax increases, cities are under financial pressure to “create businesses” that may charge. expenses.
Corpus Christi chose and kept the water charges to fund its drainage system because it offers side benefits. Most importantly, as a drought-prone area, the high water rates for things like watering lawns discourage people from wasting water. This makes it available to businesses generating jobs and sanitation at lower cost. Unlike the proposed system, you can choose how much you pay by changing the amount of water you use. City staff said this system means people who have conserved the water do not pay for drainage. This is not true.
In other words, we intentionally have a system and tariff structure where water users with high water consumption pay most of the bill and subsidize people who do not use a lot of water. It works; it’s just.
This becomes evident when you look at the impact on the bill of the system that city staff recommended to implement. People with large residential lots that water their lawns and have swimming pools (I am one of them) will see their overall bills drop dramatically. My bill would go down 10 percent. People who use the minimum water level would see their bills increase by 31% to 71%, depending on the size of the lot. It is not fair.
Staff said the average customer using water will not have any overall change in their bill. That’s true, but 65% of residential customers and 70% of business customers consume less than average. They would all get significant bill increases under the proposal. It is a tax on water conservation.
This becomes even more serious for businesses where those that consume a lot of water, such as water machines and laundromats, would see their bills drop from several hundred to several thousand dollars, while smaller, low-consumption businesses. water would see their bills increase as a two to three digit percentage. An office building that uses a chilled water air conditioning system will see its bill reduced by 10%, while a building of the same size that does not have this type of air conditioning system will see its bill double.
It would undo decades of advancements in water conservation that have made us a leader in the field and fueled our economic growth. We shouldn’t throw this away to copy other cities. The recharge system that municipal staff want is very useful in Austin and San Antonio where they encourage the recharge of their aquifers, their water source. Our soils do not absorb water like theirs and our aquifers are salt water. It does not suit us.
Instead of radically changing who pays what and talking about progress, we should 1) Keep our current billing system; 2) Shift future debt into bond bundles and use the money to make improvements in problem areas and better maintain the system; and 3) Enforce our development codes and create charges to make sure the new development doesn’t flood others or destroy the environment and leave us with the bill.
This would achieve the real purpose of the storm water system – keeping flood water out of homes and businesses.
David Loeb is a former city councilor and planning commissioner and sits on the Stormwater Charges Stakeholder Committee for the City of Corpus Christi.