What residents need to know
During the September budgeting process, it was identified that Jonah wastewater rates had not been changed since 2017.
City documents indicate while Manville and Hutto residents paid an average of $60.38 monthly, Jonah residents are only paying $23.87 monthly. However, the Jonah Water Special Utilities District charges customers other additional maintenance fees, resulting in an average monthly bill of $47.
The rate increase is the result of a prior transfer agreement from 2018 between the Jonah Water SUD and the city of Hutto. Jonah provides the water while the city of Hutto provides sewer services.
The approved rate increase would create equal rates for all of the city-managed wastewater customers. Jonah Water customers ultimately will see a $13.38 increase from $47 to $60.38 monthly.
What they’re saying
“We’re making it a level playing field for all of our city residents that use sewer in the city of Hutto—to effectively all be at the same price,” Place 3 council member Randal Clark said. “It’s being fair to everyone, including the people that are on city water, or Manville water or Jonah water ... because as a group we all need to contribute to the building of our wastewater system. Everyone is going to pay their fair share.”
It was noted in a presentation to council that the $1,476,902 in additional revenue will be used to hire additional personnel, for sewer maintenance and for infrastructure projects, such as the expansion of the south wastewater treatment plant.
Another component of the transfer negotiation indicates the city of Hutto will pay an initial $800,000 to Jonah Water SUD for the costs associated with filing the transfer with the Public Utility Commission.
Another $700,000 will be paid in the first year for additional agreements made with Jonah related to the city-owned Megasite property.
Also of note
Mayor Mike Snyder voiced concerns regarding notification for the 3,371 Jonah customers who will be affected by the rate increase.
“Were people notified on their last bill that they may see an increase or that this was even happening tonight?” Snyder said. “Here’s my concern. ... Here we are meeting as a City Council to raise their rates, but we haven’t really notified them.”
City staff stated the resolution must first be approved by council before notification can be sent by the city to Jonah residents.
Snyder also raised concerns for the overall increase in city wastewater fees coming in the future for all users, including Manville, Jonah and Hutto customers.
“We don’t like to talk about this upcoming wastewater charge increase,” Snyder said. “Best case, a $120 increase is coming. ... We need to get on this and start telling people because they need to budget; they need to figure this out.”
Given projects, interests, an 8% year-over-year projected growth in number of utility accounts and 8% year-over-year projected net income growth, the utility bill would grow $120 per month by fiscal year 2027-28, according to information published on Snyder's social media.
Council members and staff stated the city is working to reduce those projections. The Jonah Water agreement is just one of many components that will help reduce the overall wastewater rate increase for the city.
Place 4 council member Peter Gordon said the city had also recently applied for federal funding, a $30 million grant.
“I just want to make sure the citizens were aware that $120 isn't a best-case scenario; $120 is most likely, with us working hard as a council to lower that even more,” Gordon said. “I agree with the mayor that we do need to be honest with the citizens, that we do need to get information out there, but we also need to make sure that we are clearly communicating.”
The approval of new rates is the final step for the nearly six-year transfer negotiation. Once Jonah Water SUD consents to the new billing rates, notification will be sent to Jonah residents. According to city staff, the new billing rates would begin March 1.
The Jonah Water SUD will continue to handle all billing; Jonah residents will see only one bill for both water and wastewater services.