In May, Rancho Sienna MUD residents will become Leander water customers.
As discussed during the March 5 Leander City Council meeting, the switch will roughly double water rates for Rancho Sienna residents. City council approved a $388,830 additional services agreement at the meeting, which extends water into the Rancho Sienna MUD and allows for water service beginning in late May.
Georgetown charges $1.75 per one 1,000 gallons of water in out-of-city areas. Leander will charge $5.40.
The $725,000 Leander-Georgetown utility agreement affects about 1,100 current water customers in the Rancho Sienna MUD. The MUD can increase to 1,414 customers once fully developed.
At the March 5 meeting, Councilmember Christine Sederquist said a 9,000-gallon customer would currently pay about $40, and the new bill with Leander rates would pay $97 for water, not including wastewater, according to a city mockup.
Rancho Sienna residents were first informed of the change in 2017, which was scheduled to take place in 2018, according to Leander city documents. Sederquist and other council members encouraged both cities to inform affected residents before the switch.
“They are families. They have budgets,” Sederquist said. “I don’t want to surprise them with their brand new, double-sized water bills.”
City spokesperson Mike Neu said the cities are working together to inform residents in advance of the change.
Leander City Engineer Wayne Watts said regardless of who supplies water to the MUD, the customers’ rates would increase. He said Georgetown cannot supply the water because costs would be too high.
Robert Powers, the city’s finance director, said water accounts in the Rancho Sienna MUD will automatically enroll in the city of Leander’s water service. He said Leander’s costs are higher because of fixed costs, which could lower with the addition of more customers.
Water accounts that were created on or before Sept. 12, 2014 are excluded from the rate change and are grandfathered in to existing rates.
A settlement between the cities was signed in August 2014. Georgetown and the Chisholm Trail Special Utility District would give water-control of the area to Leander after a certificate of convenience and necessity. For the water transfer, Leander paid $725,000 to Georgetown, which includes $425,000 paid in December 2014 and $300,000 to be paid when water service begins, according to Leander city documents.
Powers estimates the city will receive $360,000 each year from Rancho Sienna MUD customers.
Additionally, since late 2017 Georgetown and Leander have been in ongoing negotiations regarding potential wholesale purchases, Powers said.