KGNS On Your Side: City of Laredo water and sewage rates

Published: Oct. 23, 2023 at 12:00 PM CDT
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LAREDO, TX (KGNS) - Back in May of 2019, City of Laredo Utility officials made a pitch to council members asking them to vote to increase water and sewage rates.

At the time, officials said the increase would be for five years and the rates would drop after that.

Five years later, Laredo residents continue to see high utility bills without any explanation.

During a recent budget workshop, the current council made the decision to reverse an item that was made by the council in 2019.

In 2019, the vote called for a residential water rate increase from two percent to five percent each year starting in 2019 through 2022 as well as a residential sewer rate increase from two-percent to six-percent. However, that initial vote called for the rates to go back down this year.

According to the City of Laredo Utilities Director Arturo Garcia, the city decided to reverse this decision to keep up with inflation.

During a recent council meeting, Garcia stated that chemical costs, and materials are going up, so as the demands on materials continue to increase, costs will increase, which is why they wanted to maintain the current rate.

Meanwhile, the higher rates are not sitting well with many customers who say their water bills are already too high.

Many on social media have been vocal about the rates and sewage fees such as Chelsea Guzman who posted on Facebook, “It’s ridiculously high! There are so many fees. Sewage fee is crazy high. What can we do for change?”

Meanwhile Mario Alegria said, “Water bill keeps going up every month, just ridiculous because we use mostly bottled water!”

Many also cited water quality Like Efrain Sanchez who said, “We still have serious water quality and infrastructure issues.”

Ironically, that’s the reason we won’t see a decrease in rates.

“Because we have a system that we have not maintained to the level of what we believe our standards should be,” said Laredo City Manager Joseph Neeb. “We have these failures that will occur over time and for a lot of different reasons and that takes additional cash.”

As a result, Laredo customers can expect their water and sewage rates to remain at five and six percent to invest in the city’s aging pipes.

“I would say that if inflation stays low, or non-existent for a time, the council will enact the conversation. Either freezing the ordinance or holding it in check,” said Neeb.

Residential rates weren’t the only rates that went up in 2019; commercial rates also increased going from two percent to five percent, sewage rates from two percent to six percent.

Both were scheduled for a rate reduction to three percent this year, but that did not happen.

The council mentioned that they would re-evaluate rates after a water rate study is performed in 2024, until then, rates are not expected to increase anytime soon.

Laredo City Manager Joseph Neeb mentioned that improvements in water meter technology, as well as additional water meters due to construction growth could help maintain the current water and sewage rates of five and six percent.

The final reading to keep these rates were submitted to council for their vote during the Sept. 5 city council meeting.

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