Texas City considers 36-percent water rate hike

TEXAS CITY, TX At the Asberry house in Texas City, news of a 36 percent water rate hike that might be coming soon is unwelcome.

"I'm kind of hurting since I am the only one that's truly working. My husband is retired and disabled, and we're on a fixed income," water customer Robbie Asberry said.

Asberry and her husband say their water bill usually runs them $40 or $50 a month and an increase of more than a third is a problem when every dollar counts.

The mayor of Texas City did not want to speak to Eyewitness News and said no one else at city hall was available either, but did tell the Galveston Daily News that the increase is due to a $500,000 shortfall in the water department's annual budget and that the increase would add an extra $100,000 to the water department's monthly budget.

So we took a look at the city's adopted budget for this fiscal year to see where the shortfall is coming from.

Total revenues are down from two years ago, more than $200,000. But operating expenses are up by nearly $400,000.

The city expects to pay its water supplier the same it paid last year -- $2.5 million.

The shortfall instead comes from things like professional fees, postage, materials and supplies, and salaries and benefits.

Salaries are up $90,000 from last year's amended budget to this year's adopted budget. Retirement benefits and health insurance are nearly twice what they were two years ago, or $55,000 more.

Those numbers don't matter much to some people in Texas City who say times are tight. Carol Beckham says she lives off Social Security. Her bill would go up roughly $15 a month.

"Another 15? Boy that would hurt," she said. "I wouldn't really like that too much."

And other water customers say they'll be angry if lawmakers pass the rate hike.

"Get 'em out of office. They don't need to be here. That's the way I look at it," water customer Adelpha Valdez said. "Anybody in Texas City can tell you we're having a hard time already."

The proposal includes upping the deposit on new water service from $30 to $150 and a $15 fee for temporary water shutoff.

None of this was what Asberry wanted to hear.

"I want everybody to be paid fairly and I think that's a good thing; I just hate that I have to be the one to pay for it," she said.

City commissioners discussed the proposal during a meeting Wednesday afternoon, but a vote on the issue wasn't expected to occur then.
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