Council gives direction on water rate increases
By LYNETTE SOWELL
The Copperas Cove city council held a workshop meeting Thursday, during which it received more numbers from the consulting firm which conducted the city’s recent utility rate study.
Although the council directed the city staff on Thursday to raise fees across the board for both water and wastewater, the bills for some water customers—particularly those who use lower volumes of water—could go down starting October 1.
The council heard from Raftelis Financial Consultants on July 13 but requested more information to include the impact of removing both winter averaging and the 8,000-gallon usage rate floor from utility customers’ bills.
With those two elements removed from wastewater calculations, the council received two sets of proposed rates for water, wastewater, and sprinkler rates, a full-cost rate and an “alternative” phase-in rate to full cost of service. One of the challenges the water and sewer fund has faced is achieving full cost of service funding, which covers everything from water purchases to wastewater treatment and maintaining the city’s water and sewer lines in its service area.
On Thursday, the council went through the new sets of proposed rate numbers one by one and gave recommendations.
The council proposed the water base rate for residential customers go up to $11.77 per month, up from $11, to achieve the “full cost of service.”
The council also directed the city to add in rate “tiers” for water volumetric rates, based on the amount of water used. Volumetric rates are above the base rate. Tier 1 is 0-4,000 gallons, Tier 2 is 4,001-15,000 gallons, and Tier 3 is 15,001 gallons and up. Currently, residential water customers pay $4.07 per 1,000 gallons no matter how much they run their faucets. The proposed full-cost rates for each tier are $4.15, $5.25, and $6.50, respectively.
The council proposed the wastewater base rate go to $12.32 per month, up from $11.
However, the volumetric wastewater rate, with the removal of both winter averaging and the 8,000-gallon usage “floor” goes down to $4.35 per 1,000 gallons, which will cost residential customers less.
Those who have sprinkler systems currently pay $4.15 per 1,000 gallons for those meters. Two tiers were recommended, with 0-25,000 gallons of consumption costing $7.25 per 1,000 gallons and costing $15.30 per 1,000 gallons for water usage more than 25,000 gallons per month.
There are no recommended fee hikes for solid waste or drainage fees for the upcoming year.
The council will also have tiered drought rates at their disposal in the future, should the council enact resolutions which activate the city’s water conservation plan during times of drought. The drought rates would increase water rates by stage. Depending on what drought stage is enacted, volumetric rates would go up 15, 20 or 25 percent.
The council also received a line-up of utility rate comparisons between Copperas Cove and other cities to include Killeen, Temple, Lampasas, Cedar Park, Harker Heights, Belton and Round Rock, with Copperas Cove water customers paying more for water, wastewater and drainage fees than all of those cities except Lampasas.
Council members expressed concerns that city customers have been paying more for these services than other cities, especially cities which receive their water from the same supplier as Copperas Cove. They asked for further information where those cities’ water and wastewater services are concerned, such as if these cities are providing full services, or if the cities’ utilities are being funded by another source.
“Is our product better? If not, why are we paying more?” were the takeaway questions after the workshop.
The council will vote on Sept. 5 for fee changes and also set the effective date for those changes.