Killeen residents’ water bills could spike by $8.30 per month if the Killeen City Council gives final approval on a street maintenance fee increase that is a part of the monthly water bill.
During a workshop meeting last week, City Council returned to the tenuous issue of street maintenance fees, and during a meeting that left several members of City Council visibly enervated, a motion of direction was made to increase the fee from $1.70 to $10 a month per single family household.
Though the street maintenance fee will be formally approved via the adoption of the FY 2022 budget, the council has held a continued discussion on street maintenance fees, which are monthly fees paid per household that goes directly towards city street repairs.
What started in July as a possible 333% increase that raised the $1.70 fee to $7, the City Council has discussed several alternatives to raise funds for street repair and reconstruction. Some members of the City Council, such as Councilwoman Mellisa Brown, have supported an increase to $5, with a $60 million tax-supported bond. Such a proposal would increase the street maintenance fee to $5 a month per single family equivalent, and would also require an increase of Killeen’s proposed tax rate of 70.56 cents per $100 valuation to support the bond.
The adoption of a bond would enable to city to get what Councilman Rick Williams described as a “head start” on street repairs. A portion of the increased street maintenance fee is used to pay off the bond debt service.
John Locke, Killeen’s executive director of finance, compared Killeen’s street maintenance fee to what he described as several comparable cities.
According to Locke, Bryan has a single family fee of $14, College Station has a fee of $8.20, and Corpus Christi has a fee of $5.38. The adoption of a $10 street maintenance fee would place Killeen as the second highest among those comparable cities.
Mayor Jose Segarra, along with Councilmen Ken Wilkerson and Rick Williams, have so far supported aggressive street reconstruction efforts, going above and beyond the $4.3 million threshold, and going so far as to advocate for an increase of $8.30, for a total street maintenance fee of $10 a month per household. This equates to about a 488% increase over the current $1.70. This fee would also come with a $24 million bond, supported by the street maintenance fee. And while Brown has objected to the introduction of debt-service to a fund that she has argued is solely for the purposes of paying for street repair, Brown appeared to be alone in her opinion.
The council, in a 5-2 vote last Tuesday, made a motion of direction for City Manager Kent Cagle to adjust the street maintenance fee to $10 for the proposed FY 2022 budget, along with the 24 million bond. Brown and Nina Cobb voted against the motion. The budget is scheduled to be finally approved next month.
“Our streets are in a dire need of being replaced, fixed,” Williams said. “I live in this city, I don’t want my water bill going up, but I also like when I get in my car and go down the road, that I’m not dodging potholes. We have to do something, and we have to do something broad.”
Williams also acknowledged that the fee will impact residents.
“It’s a hard ask, but I would rather ask the citizens now, and put enough money in the coffers to be able to service the streets,” Williams said. “Ever since the winter storm, I’ve been talking to citizens and I’ve been telling them, ‘there’s only one place we can come to to get the money to get this fixed, and that’s you.’”
It is possible that the City Council will return to the issue at Tuesday’s workshop, after its regular business at its weekly meeting, and citizens may comment on the fee at the next workshop during citizens’ comments.
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