Customers activating new water and wastewater accounts with the city of Leander but who live outside of Leander city limits will pay 10 percent higher rates starting June 1. Current customers will not be affected.
Previously, customers inside and outside Leander city limits paid the same rates. Leander City Council had been discussing raising rates for all customers who live outside the city limits in surrounding extraterritorial jurisdictions, or ETJs, since last year, after the city’s water rate consultant recommended a 10 percent rate difference for these customers.
After several discussions on this topic and two public hearings in which current ETJ residents expressed concerns, Leander City Council made a decision April 4.
Council voted 5-2 to approve a 10 percent water and wastewater utility rate increase for residential and commercial customers located outside of the city limits, except for current customers.
The increase also “does not supersede terms that may be defined by other existing development agreements for outside-city-limit property owners and subdivisions,” city spokesperson Mike Neu said in an email.
Currently, there are fewer than 125 active water and wastewater customers outside the city limits, according to city documents. This number is expected to increase as subdivisions in the ETJ such as Lively and Rancho Sienna develop.
The Lively development could have more than 1,100 lots when built out, and new accounts here as of June 1 will be subject to the new rates, though current Lively accounts will not, according to city spokesperson Mike Neu. There are less than 20 active accounts in Lively currently, according to Neu.
Rancho Sienna could have more than 1,400 developed lots when built out, according to Neu. Due to an agreement with the city of Georgetown, the city of Leander might not assume control of water service in this subdivision until 2020. Once Leander does begin billing for water service in this area, all new water accounts created June 1 or later in the subdivision will be subject to the new rates, according to Neu. The city of Liberty Hill provides wastewater service for Rancho Sienna.
Robert Powers, the city of Leander’s finance director, explained to City Council April 4 why the city staff recommended the rate increase.
“Residents inside the city, Leander rate-payers over the years, have invested significantly into the water system,” Powers said. “Not only financially but risk-taking, and not only building the system, but planning for the future. It’s not uncommon for the owners of the system, the city of Leander, to have a return on investment for those who benefit outside the city limits.”
Council members Shanan Shepherd and Christine Sederquist voted against the rate change. Shepherd said during the meeting she did not want the rate to increase at all, but the way the council amended the change to only affect future customers, not those with existing agreements, was the way to go.
“If it’s going to happen then that’s the way it should happen,” Shepherd said. “But I’m going to vote no because I don’t want this to happen at all.”
Editor’s Note: This story was updated April 10 to include information about Lively and Rancho Sienna.