City Council Delays Vote on SAWS Rate Increase

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Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

San Antonio Water System headquarters.

The San Antonio City Council delayed taking a vote on a proposed San Antonio Water System (SAWS) rate increase Thursday, rescheduling it for Dec. 7.

A SAWS spokesperson told the Rivard Report on Thursday morning that the vote was delayed so that District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales could be in attendance. Gonzales gave birth to a baby girl early Thursday morning.

However, a spokesman for the mayor told the Rivard Report on Thursday that Mayor Ron Nirenberg "delayed [the vote] to give some Council members time to ask some more questions of SAWS and make sure the issues are clarified."

The SAWS board of trustees unanimously approved the rate increase on Tuesday. At that time, Nirenberg supported the increase as a way to improve the city's water delivery infrastructure. The average residential water and sewer bill would increase 5.8 percent in 2018 and 4.7 percent in 2019.

“We don’t want to continue to kick this can down the road and ask you for a 20 percent rate increase just because we failed to replace the pipes at a reasonable rate,” Nirenberg said Tuesday. “We at some point have to face the reality that we have to maintain the system we’ve got.”

Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) stated Wednesday that he would vote against the rate increase. In an email statement, he stated that he believed SAWS should find reasonable alternatives to hiking water rates, including a full re-evaluation of its rate structure. He said such a review could be carried out by a third party and include SAWS finances and operations.

"Raising utility rates should never be a foregone conclusion," Brockhouse stated. "City Council must dig deeper to ensure every dollar a customer pays is put to the highest and best use.  For far too long, rate increases are rubber stamped, with little to no financial scrutiny."

6 thoughts on “City Council Delays Vote on SAWS Rate Increase

  1. If the purpose of the rate increase is to fund infrastructure, why not decouple infrastructure support from rates, and charge a separate infrastructure fee that fully funds infrastructure based on infrastructure demands? Low density development has higher infrastructure costs than higher density development, so structure infrastructure fees based on the pipes supporting each subscriber. The same should be done with CPS services.

      • I’m not aware of any, but I haven’t looked either. I first had this thought when CPS proposed a new fee for subscribers with solar panels. That fee was to pay for infrastructure requirements that remained even if subscribers consumed less energy. Seems then that infrastructure fees should be separate from consumption rates, and should be connected to infrastructure requirements, but I don’t think any utilities are doing this., beyond impervious cover fees for storm water.

  2. Is anyone in the San Antonio media going to actually report on what rates the SAWS board approved? And possibly compare those approved rates to the numbers that SAWS put on the slides?

    Isn’t that, perhaps, what gave the Council pause? An apparent discrepancy between what they had been told up to this point?

    Here, I’ll help: SAWS produced a slide that said “Rate Adjustments” and on that slide it said 0.9%, 3.2%, 1.7% = 5.8% you can see those numbers twice in the presentation to the Council. Or just go to 1:08:13 and check.

    But then go to the SAWS Board agenda and see what rates were approved:4.5%, 9.7%, and 3.6%.

    Why can’t SAWS, or the Rivard Report, or the Express-News, or KENS, KSAT or apparently any media source say: “Water Delivery Rates are going up much more than SAWS presented. The Rates will go up 9.7% to achieve what SAWS claims will raise that small slice of your bill by 3.2%”

  3. Good catch on the math. The problem with SAWS is its leadership-Puente and the board need to be replaced. How about an update on the Vista Ridge project?

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