In FY 2023-2024, Pearland residents could see water rates increase by 14%.

The overview

As the city fleshes out its FY 2023-24 budget, water and sewer capital improvement projects will be a major area of focus, as discussed at a budget discussion held Aug. 28’s City Council meeting.

For FY 2023-24, Pearland projects to have nearly $117.38 million in debt assurance for water and sewage projects, according to agenda documents.

The city’s debt payments are paid for by water system user and impact fees, the major driver of sewer and water rates, Budget Officer Rachel Winslow said.

Those opposed

“My concern is the rate that we’re moving up,” Council Member Rushi Patel said. “How do we get the message across to users? All they see is the 14% increase.”

Patel then expressed concern about the cost of projects, such as the $230 million replacement and expansion of the Barry Rose Water Reclamation Facility. The project, which is set to finish in early 2024, aims to update the 50-year-old water plant’s infrastructure.

Those in favor

Other city officials, such as Mayor Kevin Cole, stressed the importance of relaying the message to the public that much of the city’s water infrastructure is in need of repair or replacement—and that will cost money.

“In the case of the Longwood Water Reclamation Facility decommissioning, that plant is almost 60 years old,” Cole said. “It's outdated. It's inefficient. It's in the floodway. You tell people [that] every time it floods that plant goes underwater.”

Council Member Jeffrey Barry brought up that investing in the city’s water infrastructure would help deter the need to enforce mandatory watering schedules during droughts, such as the one the city enforced Aug. 29.

City Manager Trent Epperson added by investing in projects such as the $175 million Surface Water Treatment Plant—which the city leaders hope to use water from by January—Pearland will rely less on buying water from other cities, such as the 6 million gallons per day it sources from Houston.

Next steps

The city will have the first reading of its budget and tax rate Sept. 11, followed by a second reading of the budget Sept. 25.