Only 46 written protests were turned in to oppose the water rate increase in Farmersville, Council approves increase 3-2

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By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN

FARMERSVILLE – The City of Farmersville’s water fund has run a deficit for years and without an increase faced insolvency. That is why the City proposed a water rate increase to coincide with the installation of new meters around the city. And judging by the lack of opposition, it would appear as if Farmersville residents are okay with paying more for the water they use.

Farmersville held their Proposition 218 hearing this week on Monday, Sept. 25 to give residents one final opportunity to issue a formal written protest and voice their opinion over water rates in the city. According to city manager John Jansons there were about a dozen people who were in attendance for the water rater discussion. Some of which expressed their concern to the council.

“Everyone has been trying to conserve water but the bill is going up. You have to look at the total bill not just the water part of it,” Francisca Santillen said. “It makes it a big deal to have to pay every month. We are field workers and at certain times of the year we’re not working and we may not have the money to pay that bill.”

Resident Rosa Sanchez handed a letter of protest to the council signed by the residents in attendance at the meeting. But that brought the total protests to 46. According to Jansons between 1,200 and 1,400 property owners would have needed to issue written protests to keep the council from voting on it. Jansons said that in order to get the amount of protests needed the City would have had to receive dozens of letters for the last two weeks. And the lack of response was not due to a lack of opportunity.

Jansons said that the City has reached out to all property owners in the city, even hitting some of them twice in the required 45 day protest period at the start of the Prop. 218 process. He added that the City sent out forms in both English and Spanish and formatted the letter in such a way that all residents would have to do is mark an “X” next to the box indicating whether they would want to see an increase to their water rates or not. The Farmersville city manager took the lack of response as a sign that residents are more accepting of the City’s water fund financial position.

“This has been a two year process and people have had ample opportunity to submit their input,” Jansons said. “Maybe people are accepting that we need to get our financial house in order when it comes our water fund…it’s not a money grab for the City we can only spend it on water, not for police or fire or anything like that.”

Even further the City invited residents to turnout for a town hall meeting with Jansons and three council members last Monday, Sept. 18. On the agenda was a slew of items including the water rate increase, upcoming projects for the City and the sales tax increase. Jansons said that it was meant to be more of a “kitchen sink” discussion where people could speak freely. Unfortunately not one member of the public attended.

“It was kind of disappointing and what’s odd about it is that we put a notification on our web site…and it had 3,800 views on Facebook…and I was really befuddled that nobody came,” Jansons said.

Provided that no residents turned out for the informal public meeting, it was not surprising that the City received only 46 protests. Nonetheless, council members Leonel Benavides and Rosa Vasquez voted to not increase the water rate increase.

“Can we come up with another solution? Let’s just try and see what we can do,” Vasquez said.

Council member Greg Gomez, mayor Paul Boyer and mayor pro tem Matt Sisk all voted in favor of increasing the water rate to pass 3-2.

“This is not something that was thrown together over night. This has been more than a year in the making and we’ve looked at all the possibilities and this is the best solution,” said Sisk.

Now that the increase is approved Jansons said the City has the right to increase the rate starting Jan. 1, 2018. But he added that it is not likely that everything will be in place in terms of billing to start charging those rates at the turn of the year. Instead residents may see the change on their bill starting in February or March.

The new rate structure spelled out in the ordinance passed on Monday points to annual increases over the next five years ending in 2022. A typical single-family home with median water usage of 1,500 cubic feet (11,200 gallons) can expect their monthly water bill to increase from $16.79 to $20.00 beginning Jan. 1, 2018. By January 2022 a single-family residence would pay $27.32 per month. In January 2018 every 100 cubic feet extra is $0.65, and in January 2022 every 100 cubic feet extra is $0.93.

Multi-family residences and commercial/industrial users would also see an increase to $20 per month for 1,500 cubic feet in January 2018 and an increase to $27.32 per month by January 2022 for three-fourth inches by five-eight inch, and one inch meters. Six inch and eight inch meters will see an increase to $80 per month in 2018 and an increase to $109.26 by 2022. That is a marked increase as multi-family residences and commercial/industrial users pay $33.07 per month for six inch meters and eight inch meters. However the additional charge per 100 cubit feet extra stays the same.

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