Pearland, Friendswood invest in water in fiscal year 2019-20 budgets

Water was a shared topic of discussion in both Pearland and Friendswood as the cities prepared 2019-20 fiscal year budgets.

The largest expenditure on Friendswood’s water and sewer fund—and one of the largest expenditures overall—is a contribution to Houston to fix its outdated water pipe.

Friendswood’s share of the pipe will cost the city $18 million.

The water and sewer budget is a separate fund from the city’s general fund and is paid for by water- and sewer-related service charges.

The pipe is Friendswood’s main water source, city Director of Administrative Services Katina Hampton said.

The city is considering raising water usage rates for citizens in this upcoming fiscal year, Hampton said. Because the water rates have been raised over this last year, people have been using less water, bringing in less revenue from the rates to the city, Friendswood City Manager Morad Kabiri said.

Some council members opted for a lower tax rate this year than that of the year before, due to the water rate increase and the potential tax raise from the November bond.

“I just think we really need to be careful on how much we tap our citizens for,” Council Member Robert Griffon said at the Sept. 9 City Council meeting. “A lot of people are gonna go, ‘Oh my gosh, I just read in our budget for 2020 that we are going to be raising our water rates again.’ … We just raised their rates.”

Pearland’s budget focuses heavily on funding capital improvement projects, which are larger projects the city sets out to complete.

The single largest capital improvement project in Pearland, according to Deputy City Manager Jon Branson, is the city’s surface water treatment plant.

The surface water treatment plant is meant to diversify the city’s water sources, Director of Engineering Robert Upton said.

“There is a limited availability of water from the city of Houston,” Upton said. “We would bring this online as the population grows.”

The plant may also allow Pearland to supply water to surrounding cities, though nothing has been decided, Upton said.

The city approved a contract of nearly $1.3 million for the final design work of Phase 1 of the plant and $2.9 million for the final design work of Phase 3 of the plant. The contract for final design work for Phase 2 was approved in March. With this approved, the city anticipates it should be able to begin construction in 2020.

Pearland is also having to raise water rates to keep up with the cost of water, city officials said. The city plans to collect 1.6% more revenue by increasing base fees for meters 3/4-inch or larger. Most residents have a 5/8-inch meter.
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