GRAPEVINE — Inflation and other economic factors are the catalyst for a proposed 18 percent increase in city water rates and an 18 percent increase in sewer rates for the 2014-15 fiscal budget beginning in October, Grapevine officials said.“We are one of the lowest rates in the area and haven’t increased our water and sewer rates since 2002,” said Kent Conkle, utility manager for the public works department.Conkle said the increase would not be a 36 percent increase, but an 18 percent increase on water and sewer rates.“Water and sewer are different rates,” he said. “Those are two separate billing items.”The City Council held a workshop May 13 on the proposed increases. The council has not set a time line to vote on the issue.If approved, the department estimates that a typical residential user’s monthly bill would increase from approximately $64 water and sewer to approximately $75, an $11 increase, and an average commercial bill would increase from approximately $321 to $379, a $58 increase.“We used a cross section of our residents in Grapevine to determine those numbers,” Conkle said.A key assumption in the cost projections was the wholesale cost inflation projected by the Trinity River Authority.A monthly bill comparison (13,000 gallons of water and 7,000 gallons of sewage) indicates that the Grapevine costs are approximately $40 for water and $24 for sewer. By comparison, Southlake’s rates are $66 for water and $41 for sewer. Colleyville’s rates are $54 for water and $21 for sewer.In August, the city retained J. Stowe & Co., a company that specialized in looking at the financial stability of water and waste water utilities, to perform a water and waste-water rate review.According to the company’s findings, the city has experienced annual revenue deficits in the water and sewer fund since fiscal year 2008-2009.The fund balance historically has been sufficient to cover shortfalls to maintain rates during economic downturns, according to Chris Ekrut, J. Stowe & Co director.However, the City Council was told by Ekrut that growth in revenue has not been sufficient to keep up with inflation, particularly for wholesale services. He said they have been using reserves in recent years to help balance the budget.
Marty Sabota, 817-390-7367