Council member Troxclair seeks to make utility bills more affordable with new resolution

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Austin City Council Member Ellen Troxclair, whose district represents a portion of Southwest Austin, is bringing a resolution to the city council this week that will establish affordability standards for Austin’s water and garbage bills.

The city of Austin owns three municipal utilities—Austin Energy, Austin Water and Austin Resource Recovery—and according to the 2017-2018 fiscal year taxpayer impact statement, the annual services of the three combined cost the average Austin resident about $2,475.

“With residents facing [the]rapidly rising cost of living in our city, affordability must be a part of every conversation at city hall,” Troxclair stated in a Jan. 31 press release. “By establishing affordability standards, council will have more complete data when making decisions and customers will have more transparency about their bills, as well as more certainty about what to expect in the future.”

The resolution directs city staff to conduct a study of other public and private water and solid waste utilities in Texas, the release stated. Through those study findings, city staff can form recommendations for affordability standards for Austin Water and Austin Resource Recovery.

According to the press release, in 2010, the city of Austin evaluated residential, commercial and industrial electric bills across the state, and was able to use that data to create affordability goals for Austin Energy. The benchmarking processes allowed Austin Energy to set a goal of keeping rates in the lowest 50 percentile of Texas utilities and limit annual rate increases to no more than 2 percent per any customer class per year.

If the resolution is passed on Thursday, recommendations for affordability standards will be brought to council for approval no later than Aug. 10.

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