Councilman questions if city is charging enough for utilities

Marina Riker By Marina Riker

June 27, 2017 at 10:15 p.m.
Updated June 27, 2017 at 10:24 p.m.

   mct graphic for The Victoria Advocate

The city of Victoria isn't planning to proactively replace water line parts next year in order to save money - something one city councilman wasn't thrilled about during a budget meeting Tuesday.

Councilman Tom Halepaska questioned whether city customers pay enough for sewer and water services to cover maintenance costs on infrastructure. This comes as city revenue for 2017 is less than expected, forcing departments, such as public works, to tighten budgets and put the brakes on projects next year.

For the public works department, that means scraping up money to maintain current services - but not spending $40,000 to proactively replace parts in water systems, city officials said.

"The rates that we charge to the customer should cover our expenses," said Halepaska. "I'm seeing that it doesn't look like they are."

Despite the $40,000 cut, Public Works Director Donald Reese said he isn't recommending that sewer and water rates increase - yet.

Instead, Reese said the city is planning to hire a consultant to study whether the current sewer and water rates are fair. That study could be finished so council members can discuss it next spring, he said.

The cuts to the public works department are just some of many citywide, which range from the parks department to halts on pay raises for city staff.

However, Gilbert Reyna, who runs the city's finance department, said the city's financial state could improve slightly next year.

Reyna said he expects sales tax revenue to slightly increase next year - by about $198,000. The biggest increase is expected to come from sales tax revenue on oil and gas - projected to increase $85,000 in 2018, said Reyna.

The anticipated boost comes after sales tax revenue on oil and gas transactions plummeted in 2017. The city is expecting to bring in about $770,000 this year, down from nearly $2.3 million in 2016, according to city documents.

However, Reyna said the estimates for next year's earnings could still change. He said he will continue to make tweaks to the proposed budget until the council discusses it again in August.

"This budget as of today is a work in progress," said Reyna. "The numbers are still going to be fine-tuned until July."



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