MayorBob on water rates

Former Mayor Bob Lanier has an op-ed in today’s paper in support of Mayor Parker’s proposed water rate hike.

I believe Mayor Parker will work with council members, homeowner associations and the Houston Apartment Association to develop a plan that receives broad-based support. Keep in mind, the mayor proposes that the water and sewer department be a closed, self-supporting system. The fees paid by customers are its only source of revenue. Vice versa, revenues generated by the water and sewer department will not be used to offset any budget shortfall elsewhere in city government. Simply put, you cannot balance the city’s general fund budget using water and sewer fees.

I believe the mayor is taking every step possible to identify cost savings and wring every ounce of efficiency out of the system. In excess of $10 million in savings have been identified and implemented. However, these changes are not enough to offset increased costs for unfunded regulatory mandates, chemicals, electricity, infrastructure maintenance and debt payments. Current estimates place the water and sewer department in the red to the tune of $100 million this fiscal year. Without a rate increase, that deficit will grow to more than $150 million next year. This is a situation we simply cannot afford to ignore.

Not a whole lot of new information in the piece, but that’s not what its purpose was. The point was to persuade, and to provide some political cover. If MayborBob thinks this is a good idea, then there must be something to it, right? We’ll see if it helps.

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