A Killeen resident said the city’s water rates are creating “a hardship” for her.
Marsha Tison said she is disabled and living alone on a fixed income. She said she’s never hit the 2,000-gallon mark she’s charged for by the city’s existing rates. “You charge a minimal water fee no matter if I use it or not,” she told the Killeen City Council on Tuesday. “I just feel like this is discrimination, and it’s not fair.”
Mayor Dan Corbin said the council evaluates the rates annually during the city’s budget process.
“The council has lowered that in the past,” he said. “It’s something that we look at every year when we do the budget to determine how much we need to get in fees in order to keep the public utility fund viable.”
Killeen spokeswoman Hilary Shine said the city uses a rate model each year to determine if an increase to the base rate is necessary.
“The model takes into account the costs of goods and services, personnel, equipment” and other factors, she said.
Rates depend on a resident’s meter size. For a ¾-inch meter, the base rate is $12.03, $13.32 for a 1-inch, $16.54 for a 1½-inch and $20.41 for a 2-inch meter. The base rate covers usage for up to 2,000 gallons; each additional 1,000 gallons is an extra $3. The existing rates were established and put into effect in October 2011.
Shine said most residential customers pay for water, wastewater and drainage services all rolled into one bill. She said the exception would be residents who have a septic tank, who don’t have wastewater fees tacked onto their bills.
The city charges $18.21 for up to 3,000 gallons of wastewater and a $6 drainage fee for a single-family residential home. Garbage collection also is rolled into the bill. The size of a resident’s garbage can determines how much they pay. A 96-gallon can is $17.50, a 64-gallon can is $15.60 and a 32-gallon can is $14.38.
Corbin told Tison, although there will be a new mayor and possibly a new council during the budgeting process this year, her concerns aren’t falling on deaf ears.
“I can assure you that everyone on the council shares your concerns about keeping that fee as low as we can,” he said.
Corbin told Tison there will be “plenty” of opportunities for public input during the budgeting process.
“Please do come and make yourself be heard,” he said. “There are people who are listening.”
Tison said the existing base fee creates a hardship for “any healthy single person who lives from paycheck to paycheck.”
Temple and Copperas Cove, like Killeen, charge based on the size of the meter. For a ¾-inch meter in Temple, it’s a $10 base fee, $16 for a 1-inch and $20 for a 1½-inch for the first 2,000 gallons. An additional $3.20 is assessed for every 1,000 gallons. Copperas Cove charges $11 for a ¾-inch meter, $15.50 for a 1-inch meter and $23 for a 1½-inch meter. The base fee covers the first 1,000 gallons with $3.35 charged for each additional 1,000 gallons.
Harker Heights has a base rate of $9.98 with an additional $3.11 per 1,000 gallons. Belton charges $14 for up to 2,000 gallons, plus $3.25 per 1,000 gallons after that.
Shine said the city’s Seniors Count program provides temporary financial assistance to low-income seniors who need help paying their utility bills. The program was put in place in 1998. The Killeen HELP Center, 718 N. Second St., works with seniors to see if they qualify for assistance.