Water rates on the rise in Buda

By Moses Leos III

Incremental increases to water and wastewater rates could be on the horizon for Buda utility customers. 

A five percent water and two percent wastewater rate increase spread out between Fiscal Years (FY) 2015-16 to 2018-19 may occur, according to Assistant City Manager Brian LaBorde.

“We want to maintain our [water and wastewater]reserves, and to stay on top of our CIPs,” he said. 

The increases account for several factors, including several pending Capital Improvement Projects [CIPs]. 

Approximately $5.3 million in debt could be issued for water and wastewater projects in FY 2014-15. Buda has approximately $31.8 million in water and wastewater projects through FY 2018-19. 

According to LaBorde, the end goal for the incremental rate increases is to avoid “rate shock.” 

Additional factors include the city accounting for its water sources. Buda obtains water from the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer District (BSEAD) and from the Canyon Lake reservoir per an agreement with the Guadalupe Blanco River Authority (GBRA). 

The city is also seeking an additional water source from the Hays Caldwell Public Utility Agency (HCPUA). The rate forecast accounts for all three sources by 2016.  

LaBorde said the increases could change. 

“CIPs change and council may want to consider other things,” he said.

Buda customers could see the first increase this fiscal year. A 2.5 percent jump in the water rate is forecasted, with no wastewater increases.  

“When it was presented, [the council was]in agreement that everything looked good,” Mayor Todd Ruge said. 

Last year, Buda residents saw a four percent increase in water rates, two percent in wastewater. 

“It’s never easy raising the rates on anything,” Ruge said. “We looked at last year’s (increase), and it’s a pretty good deal.”

Council votes on the FY 2014-15 utility rate increase in August. 

Kyle residents may not see a water or wastewater rate increase for the first time in three years. 

Perwez Mowheet, director of finance, said thus far in the budget process, the city doesn’t expect to raise water or wastewater rates. 

Over the past three years, Kyle residents saw water rates increase by 70 percent; wastewater by 55 percent. 

While the city isn’t anticipating a rate hike this year, increases could be on the horizon. 

Several variables could cause rate jumps, including the acquisition of additional water rights. Kyle currently has five water sources, which costs the city $3.53 million annually.  

Future expansion of the city’s wastewater treatment plant could also raise rates.

The plant, owned by Aqua Texas, has a capacity of 3.0 million gallons per day. Future expansion would call for an additional 1.5 MGD. 

“To build the next level of capacity…will necessitate a rate increase,” Mowheet said. 

Harper Wilder, public works director, said the city and Aqua Texas are debating whether the plant has reached the 75 percent capacity threshold. Per Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) regulations, the plant must go through the expansion design process at that point. 

In addition, Kyle has been in litigation with Aqua Texas over ownership rights of the wastewater plant for the last several years. Mowheet said paying Aqua Texas an acquisition fee could also lead to a rate increase. 

Mowheet said the FY 2014-15 budget will be presented on July 31. 

“Our goal is that we present a balanced budget where there are no rate increases of any kind,” Mowheet said. 

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