The Killeen City Council will discuss two items Tuesday that could have a noticeable effect on residents’ water bills.
On the docket is the council’s continuing discussion on the city’s sewer service line policy and a possible street maintenance fee.
First, the council considers direction on a city policy requiring homeowners to pay for repairs to private lines that cross over private property to connect to public sewer mains under city streets.
On Aug. 7, the council directed the city to draft an ordinance to formalize its longstanding policy, but the council has flirted with expanding the city’s responsibility for those repairs, which can reach as high as $25,000, according to some homeowners. Some residents have sought help, including Austin resident Lee Huggins, when a repair of several thousand dollars on the sewer service line connecting his Killeen rental property to the sewer main under the city street failed.
Director of Public Works David Olson laid out Oct. 23 three options the council considered to help aid homeowners, including entering into warranty programs for homeowners to help pay for emergency repairs and accepting some or all of the maintenance and repair of service lines.
Among the options considered:
The city would set up an optional or mandatory warranty program through a private provider that could cost residents anywhere in the range of $7.75 to 50 cents per month, depending on the option.
The city would accept responsibility for repairs up to the public property line. Olson said this would likely cause a necessary sewer rate increase citywide of between 75 cents and $1.80, regardless of whether you have the problem.
The city would accept responsibility for the entire sewer service line, likely resulting in a mandatory sewer rate increase of $4.70.
Councilman Steve Harris was in favor of the city accepting responsibility for the repairs rather than opting into a warranty program. Council members Butch Menking and Debbie Nash-King expressed a desire for the warranty program.
Next, the council will discuss a street maintenance fee that would be assessed on commercial and residential water bills to pay for the city’s backlog of road repair needs.
On July 17, the council voted to delay discussion on the controversial fee, which the city estimates would add more than $6 to a single-family home’s water bill each month, at the highest estimate.
Now, city officials are pushing for action on the fee, arguing the solution needs to be found before street maintenance spirals out of control.
“Doing nothing is not really doing nothing,” Killeen Mayor Jose Segarra said Oct. 23. “We’re going to continue to see streets deteriorate if we kick this can further down the road.”
By establishing a separate fund for street maintenance, the city said an overburdened operational fund would receive some breathing room as property tax revenues remain constrained each year. If the city does not institute the fee, the other options are attempting to raise property taxes by around 2 cents or cutting expenditures in the general fund, which could mean the elimination of city positions, David Olson said.
The street fee, which has been voted down twice by the council in recent years, would help counteract ballooning deferred maintenance costs that have been woefully underfunded in years of past city budgets.
The council’s workshop will begin at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Utilities Collection Building, 210 W. Avenue C.
Herald staff writer Matt Payne contributed to this report.