At the Sept. 11 Magnolia City Council meeting, Dave Welch, president of the Texas Pastor Council—a group encouraging engagement in social and cultural issues that is representing churches in the city of Magnolia—addressed council members during the public comment portion of the meeting agenda and brought forth a petition to reverse the new utility structure that City Council unanimously approved in April.
The new structure adjusted water and wastewater rates, adopted a tiered rate configuration and added an institutional user category for tax-exempt, nonprofit and government entities, Community Impact Newspaper previously reported. Previously, institutions were charged the same commercial rate as businesses.
Welch said the new structure discriminatorily charges institutions a 40 to 70 percent higher rate than for comparable commercial water and sewer usage.
“Leaders from churches, schools, charities, charitable organizations, businesses and elected offices in and outside the city of Magnolia agree that this is a direct act of intentional rate discrimination and aggression against the tax-exempt status of churches, schools and charities,” Welch said during the meeting.
He called upon Mayor Todd Kana, City Council members and City Administrator Paul Mendes to “immediately reverse the discriminatory rate” and restore those in the institutional category back to commercial status.
Should city officials fail to do so, Welch said the Texas Pastor Council will pursue a potential lawsuit through the court system and call upon the 2019 Texas Legislature to bring remedy.
Mark Jackson, who lives outside the city but attends church in Magnolia, was just one of dozens of people who showed up in support of Welch and local institutions.
“I have been impacted by this increase in water rates [because I go to church in Magnolia]. This is clearly a violation of federal law; you’ll lose,” Jackson said to council members during the meeting. “The only people who are going to get rich off of this are the lawyers. Please reverse your decision.”
The council is not able to respond during the public comment period.
Read more about the city’s water rate structure here.