Copperas Cove utility rates to change
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The Copperas Cove City Council agreed on a new direction for utility rates for water, sewer and solid waste, and for now is leaving the senior discount intact.
The council came to a consensus during its workshop held Tuesday evening, after hearing two different options presented by City Manager Ryan Haverlah. Options were called Option A and Option B, with the council concurring to go forward with Option B.
Option B includes a water base rate of $25 for residential customers, up from the current $14 base rate, and the sewer base rate will be $26, up from the $14 base rate.
However, instead of an increase, volumetric rates for both water and sewer will decrease. The water volumetric rate will go down to $3.10 per 1,000 gallons, down from $4.75 per 1,000 gallons. The volumetric rate for a sprinkler will be $2.80 per 1,000 gallons. The sewer volumetric rate will decrease to $3.71 per 1,000 gallons, down from $5.75 per 1,000 gallons.
The solid waste rate for trash pickup will increase to $19.83, up from $19, and the senior discount would remain at 20 percent.
This will see bills for those with the senior citizen discount increase by a maximum amount of $17.27 for the lowest volumetric user.
The average bill increase will be about $11 per month, for utility customers who use up to 5,000 gallons of water per month, according to Haverlah.
Council member Marc Payne pointed out that the new Option B does not address the need to move away from the senior citizen discount, though. At prior workshops, the council had discussed phasing out the discount.
Haverlah explained that council gave two desires - the removal of the discount and reducing the volumetric rate.
“If we were to put some kind of a donation program into effect that allowed the 14,000 other customers that benefit to help allay that cost that might be incurred there, then it gets it off the government’s back,” said Place 3 councilmember Dan Yancey. “It gets it on people helping people to do what needs to be done and you also have a criteria for what would qualify for aid, so people wouldn’t be taking advantage of the fact that just because they’re 65, they get a discount.”
Mayor Bradi Diaz said the only thing she does not like about Option B is that it does not address the senior discount.
“It’s true we need to get rid of the senior citizen discount but trying to do this is getting our rates more in line, and it’s going to make it easier to get rid of the senior citizen discount later because we’ve already balanced out,” said councilmember Jay Manning. “Everyone’s paying what they ought to be paying for the quantity they use. Then we can address the other. Trying to address them at the same time is very difficult.”
At a previous council utility rate workshop, council members had discussing decreasing the discount from 20 percent to 15 percent and requested comparisons of base rates of other cities.
City staff compared the base and volumetric rates of Temple, Harker Heights, Stephenville, Killeen, Round Rock, Belton, Gatesville, Waco, Georgetown, Lampasas, Taylor, Liberty Hill and Cedar Park, with Copperas Cove.
Copperas Cove’s most recently proposed base rate of $14.49 falls in the middle. Liberty Hill has a base rate of $35.09, while Temple has a base rate of $10.
Liberty Hill’s volumetric rate is $4.61, compared to Copperas Cove’s rate of $4.99. Georgetown’s base rate is $23, but their volumetric rate is $2.40, with a $6.50 discount for customers on Medicaid.
Of the cities compared, Copperas Cove is the only one on the list with a discount solely for senior citizens. Killeen is the next closest with a discount provided through an assistance program funded by donations from customers.
Option A, which the council decided against, proposed a base rate increase from the current $14 to $16 and lowering volumetric rate for residential customers from the current $4.75 to $4.70 for water, and the current sprinkler from $4.75 to $4.50. It would have also increased the sewer base rate from $14 to $16 and kept the volumetric rate of $5.75. The solid waste rate would have remained at the previously proposed $19.83, an increase from the current $19 but a decrease from the initially proposed amount of $19.95.
The new rates will not go into effect until Oct. 1, and the council will need to officially approve the rate increase by amending the city’s fee schedule, which will take place at the council’s Aug. 4 meeting.