Fort Worth water and sewer customers would see increases in their rates for 2014, under proposals the water department is floating as part of the city’s budget process.
In a report to City Council members as part of their review of the 2014 fiscal year budget, the water department is recommending a 6.41 percent revenue increase in water rates and 5.27 percent in sewer. It's not clear yet how that translates to the underlying rates.
The council, which gets its first view of the city’s proposed budget today, has the final say when it votes on the budget this fall. Last year, it blocked a water rate increase, worrying about the impact on a range of users, but let a 2.6 percent sewer increase go through.
Fort Worth’s costs of providing the service continue to go up, and thus the city has to raise rates, the city’s water director, Frank Crumb, told council members in his report.
The city’s raw water costs from the Tarrant Regional Water District are going up 14.9 percent in 2014, Crumb told council members. The city’s fixed infrastructure costs continue to grow, too, the report said.
Meanwhile, water demand is flat or declining due to customers’ conservation, more efficient appliances, and better plumbing code requirements, the report said.
Seventeen percent of retail water revenue comes from fixed monthly charges, and 83 percent is based on volume, Crumb said. A consultant hired by the city recommended Fort Worht raise the 17 percent ot 25 percent over five years, beginning in 2014, Crumb told council members.
Sewer usage also has declined in recent years, due to conservation and better appliances and codes, Crumb’s report said. The city also faces continued sewer infrastructure costs regardless of usage.
“Lower sewer volumes by account were not immediately recognized, resulting in a divide between the volumes used to set the unit rates and the actual billed volumes,” the report said.
A group of residential, commercial, industrial, irrigation and super user “stakeholders” told the city last year that it should adjust its rates for lower volumes over three years, with last year’s sewer rate increase being the first of three consecutive annual ones.
Crumb’s report told the council that the recommended 2014 increase should complete the adjustment, and that none based on volumes should be needed in 2015.
The proposed wholesale revenue increase for the 30 cities that get Fort Worth’s water service would be 16.21 percent. The 23 cities that use the sewer service would see a 3.79 decrease in sewer.
- Scott Nishimura, Star-Telegram Fort Worth City Hall reporter