City Council Delays Vote On San Antonio Water Rate Hike

Nov 9, 2017

Updated at 5:30 p.m.

A vote to increase the San Antonio Water System’s rates by 10.5 percent over the next two years was originally on the agenda for Thursday’s city council meeting, but the council pushed the vote back until next month’s meeting.

The San Antonio City Council is waiting until December to decide whether to raise water and sewer rates again. The municipal water utility has raised rates by at least 5 percent annually every year since 2013.

District 7 Councilwoman Ana Sandoval said she asked the mayor to postpone the vote to give SAWS officials time to address residents’ concerns about the way the utility is using their money, and confusion over how to calculate their bills.

“There’s a little bit of questions and some lack of faith in the organization right now, and I think this is a perfect opportunity to build those bridges before we take (up) the rate hike,” Sandoval said. “I think once those conversations have been had we can move forward with much more support.”

District 6 Councilman Greg Brockhouse, who plans to vote against the increase, thinks Mayor Ron Nirenberg postponed the vote because he didn't have the votes to pass it. Nirenberg is a member of the SAWS board.

Bruce Davidson, the mayor's spokesman, said Nirenberg tabled the vote to allow council members and the utility to have further discussions about the potential rate hike.  

SAWS plans to use the additional funds to repair and replace sewer and water delivery systems and to access new water sources.

The utility is under a consent decree to reduce sewer spills.

If the proposed increase passes, the average household water bill will be about $69 a month by 2019.

Bob Martin of the Homeowner Taxpayer Association of Bexar County said that would be tough for people on fixed incomes.

“I think it’s disgusting. They’re talking about 5.8 percent in (2018) and then stacked on top of that another 4.7 percent in 2019. Those are pretty stiff increases for families already struggling to make ends meet,” Martin said.

Beto De Leon, environmental health coordinator for Southwest Workers’ Union, is also concerned by the multiple rate increases.

We’re looking at almost 60 percent in new rate increases in less than 10 years. And we feel that is very unjust for working class families,” De Leon said. “We understand that infrastructure improvements are necessary, but we want to see more fiscal responsibility and leadership from the city to make sure that if we’re going to be asking the taxpayer to be paying for these improvements we want to see SAWS coming up with sustainable plans that show us they’re going to be using the money smartly.”

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille