By BOB PALMER,
Jefferson Officials Claim $30.50 Fee Needed to Repay Debts
When Jefferson aldermen approved certificates of obligation in 2016 to fund the current water and sewer repairs, they raised the minimum water charge for all residents to $30.50 for the first 1,000 gallons.
Jeffersonians now pay a combined water and sewer base fee of $55.50 per month. The fresh water component of the monthly charge is $30.50, 241 percent higher than Marshall which charges only $8.92 for the first 1,000 gallons. “The rate structure was set up by the financial advisor,” Alderman Victor Perot explained.
Jefferson residents in a random, but unscientific survey, are not happy.
Betty Martin: “They (water rates) are ridiculous. I take issue with the fact that we pay the highest rates and not getting garbage pickup. For the money we are spending on just water and sewer we should have at least once a week garbage pickup.”
Merrill Ham: “I think they are very high. That $25 they added on. I think we are still paying for those water tower paintings. Used to be able to have a single tap for $15, now it’s $55. I put a filtration system in my house. We’re paying for stuff that’s not worth having. It’s overpriced and quality is of dubious distinction.
Evelyn Mims: “I think the quality is fine. I know I am not easily able to pay a whole bunch of bills at once. It has seemed high to me at times. (The monthly $55.50) seems pricey to me.”
Linda Nichols: “I think it is very expensive and I have very low water pressure in my home. I don’t do yard watering, but my water bills are still very high. I moved here from Arlington and my water bill here is higher than they were in Arlington and I had a watering system that ran twice a week.”
Gloria Woods: “It’s higher than it’s been in a long time. I think it’s a little high, but I’m not one to complain.”
Mayor Bubba Haggard argues alternatives to high water rates are not pleasant. “With only $200 million in the tax base, it would take a 25 cents per $100 property tax increase to pay the obligation,” Haggard said. “The city’s tax rate would go to 70 cents. I and everyone else would be totally against that.”
When the debt payment went from $200,000 to $400,000, Haggard believes the council had little choice. “We can’t eat that,” Haggard said. “There is no going down on water rates.” Perot argues Jefferson’s rates are not out of line with similar sized Texas cities. The average rate for cities of 2,000 to 5,000 population was $38.38 according to Texas Municipal League.
Cost For First 5,000 Gallons:
Although the Marshall first thousand rate is significantly less than Jefferson, the neighboring city’s cost for each additional thousand is higher. Jefferson charges $3.75 per thousand while the Marshall rate is $4.30. When asked if Jefferson could lower its first thousand rate but raise the additional thousand rate to remain revenue neutral, Haggard agreed it was possible. “That would shift the burden” from small residential customers to larger residences and commercial customers, Haggard conceded.
Another factor in the Jefferson water equation is that Jefferson pays less for its treated water than Marshall. The rate paid by Jefferson to Northeast Texas Municipal Water District for water for the last 8 years is $1.48 per thousand gallons. This rate is below actual costs of production. For the latest audited year, the actual unit cost of potable water delivered to the member cities is about $2.48 per thousand gallons.
Many Jefferson residents wonder, however, why the price break the city receives for treated water does not show up on their bills.
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