Farmersville water fund hopes to tackle mounting deficits with rate increase
By Paul Myers
farmersville – Farmersville residents are being asked to turn out to City Hall if they would like to formally protest an increase in their water rate. Because of Proposition 218, passed in 1996, cities have to give their residents ample time to protest an increase to their utility rates. Prop 218 protects residents from cities looking to gouge residents. However, that does not mean that rates do not need to justifiably go up, like in the case of Farmersville.
According to city manager John Jansons, the last time the City passed a rate increase was 15 years ago in 2002. As well he notes that there seems to have been efforts in increase the rates in 2005 and after 2010. Jansons added that the City’s water fund has been operating at a significant loss since 2013. And since then deficits have only began to mount.
In fiscal year 2013 the water fund operated at a $92,441 loss. In 2014 the operational loss grew to $100,399. In 2015 the operation loss grew still at $117,566. In 2016 the deficit more than doubled with a $247,107 operational loss. And this year the fund is projected to come up $320,261 short.
Farmersville finance director Steve Huntley says that City has been relying on its reserves since he started in Farmersville in October of 2013. Huntley said that the fund is set up in a way that sets aside reserves for repairs to wells and water mains when they’re needed. But because of deficits they have been using those reserves to keep the water system running. And as of now, the City has approximately $1 million in its reserves for water
“It’s like taking from your savings to pay for regular every day things,” Huntley said.
And now with deficits reaching far into the hundreds of thousands of dollars range, Huntley has relayed to the council that it will be insolvent in the next five to seven years unless something changes.
The proposed solution by the City is a change in resident’s water rates. But a proposed change in rates was coming anyway. Despite the large deficits plaguing the water fund, the City is also installing new smart water meters that will accurately track individual household water use.
By adding water meters residents will move from paying a flat rate for water to paying for what they use. As of now residents who use water for regular use are charged as much as residents who use more water than they necessarily need.
“The folks who are over consuming are being subsidized by the customers who are using water regularly,” Jansons said in an interview in March.
According to Jansons residents currently pay $14 per month for water. Combined with sewer and refuse, a resident’s total utility bill is $89.
The meters will do more than just monitor household water use. Instead of having to check each meter individually the City will be able to track water use digitally. Similar to the City of Woodlake, city staff can drive around a neighborhood and each meter will transmit information into a laptop. From there it will be downloaded into the City’s software that tracks water usage and will correspond with billing.