Texas Liberal

All People Matter

Houston Mayor Parker Should Be Commended For Proposing Needed Water & Sewer Rate Increases

Houston Mayor Annise Parker should be commended for having the political courage to ask for a water and sewer rate increase even in hard times. Running a city costs money. It is consistent with strong political leadership that when economic conditions are tough, the people who benefit from city services are asked to pay for what they get. People will no doubt complain and for many even a few dollars makes a big difference, but the fact is that some cities have personal income taxes and higher tax rates of all kinds than does Houston.  We are not a high tax city.

From the Houston Chronicle—

“Mayor Annise Parker’s administration is proposing drastic water and sewer rate increases to shore up Houston’s Combined Utility System, which has operated with multimillion-dollar budget deficits for several years. The estimated rate hike under the proposal, presented to City Council on Tuesday, would be about 12.5 percent for residential water users, increasing from about $47 a month for the average household use of 6,000 gallons of water to about $53.  Those who live in apartments would face a far higher increase, in many cases greater than 50 percent, although that aspect of the proposal could change in the coming weeks, city officials said. Across all classes of ratepayers, including multifamily and commercial users, the proposed increase comes to about 25 percent. Michael Marcotte, the director of the Department of Public Works and Engineering, warned of potential downgrades in the credit rating for some of the city’s debt if rates are not significantly increased. He also said the system runs the risk of falling behind on much-needed maintenance that keeps drinking water safe. The reason the water-sewer system is in arrears, he said, is that it has been hit in recent years by much higher costs than anticipated, lower water usage and water rates that did not keep up with expenses. This year, the city is projected to have a $102 million shortfall in the Combined Utility System, one it has closed with the use of debt..(Some)objected to the high cost increases scheduled for apartment users, saying it would have a disproportionately high impact on the poor. “Most of the people in my family live in apartments, and they live in low-income apartments,” said Councilwoman Jolanda Jones, who grew emotional in speaking about the proposed increases. “They don’t have an additional $5, $10, $12 to pay their water bill. Houston Apartment Association President Andy Teas said the increased bills to apartment complex owners would likely be passed on directly to tenants. Teas said the association was concerned that the administration would repeat the record increases of about six years ago, when apartment owners saw triple the rate hikes of homeowners…“We’re always concerned..there’s a political aspect to this issue that single-family homeowners are the most reliable voters in city elections,” Teas said,.. “We want to make sure that the city is not getting into the temptation to subsidize likely voters at the expense of the others.”

The issue of higher possible rates for apartment residents is a concern. The Mayor has said she is willing to look at this issue again. This is just what Mayor Parker has said about possible 50% rate hikes for health insurance for some City of Houston retirees. It seems the Mayor uses as a tactic throwing out a proposal and then being “willing” to offer some give on the most severe aspects of that proposal.

Hopefully Mayor Parker will stay the course on this rate increase, while mitigating the possible impact of higher bills on the most poor residents of our city.

Here is a link to Sewerhistory.org for information on the history of sewers.

April 7, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: