PSB to consider slight increase to fees, rates

PSB to consider slight increase to fees, rates
Posted on 12/11/2020
Drainage improvements being made.

Seeking to minimize the need for large fee increases in the near future, the Public Service Board is considering a proposal that would add a $0.26 increase in stormwater fee to the residential customer’s monthly bill. Typical commercial customers will see an increase of about $1.45 for the stormwater fee on their monthly bill.

The amount is in addition to a 2% increase in both water and wastewater rates to help rehabilitate the utility’s aging infrastructure and expand systems for city growth.

If approved at the January PSB meeting, the combined $508 million budgets will result in an increase of $1.37 per month on the average residential bill.

Budget breakdown

On Nov. 30, President and CEO John Balliew and staff members presented the utility’s proposed Fiscal Year 2021-22 Water/Wastewater and Stormwater budgets to the PSB. Initially, no increase to stormwater fee was proposed. However, the PSB asked to see options for a minimal increase to the stormwater fee to allow for the completion of additional flood control projects and to blunt fee increases in future years.

Even with the $1.37 monthly residential bill increase, EPWater has the second lowest water rates of large Texas cities, including Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Only Laredo’s water rates are lower. El Paso has the fourth lowest stormwater fee of large Texas cities.

EPWater’s rate structure will continue to provide relief for low water users while charging more for high-water users. Customers using less than 4 ccfs* (2,990 gallons) of water in any given month will receive a waiver of the $11.82 Water Supply Replacement Charge.

The slight increase to water and wastewater rates is necessary to secure El Paso’s future water supply, improve system reliability through rehabilitation of aging infrastructure, and expand systems to accommodate growth, Balliew said. Investing in these priorities will support long-term sustainability for customers.

“We have built an innovative portfolio of water resources, and this is just one way we are ensuring EPWater customers have a reliable source of water,” Balliew said. “It is especially needed when we do not have a plentiful river water season.”

Funding priorities

During the next fiscal year, EPWater will launch the first phase of a major capital project that will recharge the Hueco Bolson aquifer in Northeast El Paso. Upon completion of multiple phases of the project, Rio Grande water will be used during plentiful seasons to help stabilize the aquifer and improve drought resilience.

Additional capital improvement projects for the new fiscal year include:

  • drilling new wells
  • upgrades and/or expansion of the Roberto Bustamante, Fred Hervey and John T. Hickerson wastewater treatment plants
  • improvements to the Jonathan Rogers and Canal river water treatment plants, and technology and facility upgrades to increase efficiency of operations.

Approval of the FY2021-22 budget, including rates and fees, will be voted on during the PSB’s meeting on Jan. 13. If approved, the budget, rates and fees will go into effect at the start of the fiscal year, which begins March 1.

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