White Oak water rates on tap for Tuesday talk

The City of White Oak has another meeting set for Tuesday night to discuss a looming increase in the community’s water rates.

It’s a lot to discuss, city coordinator Jimmy Purcell says, but there’s not a lot to debate.

“Basically, on these meetings, it’s to educate the citizens on why we are doing what we are doing,” he said. “Because we have to. There’s not a vote for this.

“It’s trying to explain to  them: Everything is rising, so in order to keep up we have to raise prices ourselves.”

The meeting’s set for 6 p.m. July 25 at City Hall.

At a minimum, Purcell says, the city is poised to increase the base rate from $24.60 for 3,000 gallons per month to $36 for 5,000 gallons (the benchmark quantity for average consumption by residential users statewide).

That’s just the break-even point, he added. Estimates by Paul King of the Texas Rural Water Board advise a White Oak base rate as high as $50 per month.

“We don’t want to just break-even,” Purcell said, for the sake of not just maintaining the water system but also improving it as necessary over time. “We need to make enough so this water account sustains itself in order to pay for the loans that were taken out.”

Further complicating the discussion is the issue of how the city’s tier system may be adjusted as well, increasing the cost per 1,000 gallons in increments over the minimum 5,000 gallons – currently, residents pay $24.60 per month for 3,000 gallons and an additional $5.70 per 1,000 gallons for 3,0001 to 6,000 gallons before the next tier pricing kicks in. At the highest level, users pay the base rate plus $8.10 for every 1,000 gallons above 21,001. All those numbers are subject to increase.

“A lot of cities, that base rate you pay, that’s not for any water at all,” Purcell said, just access to available resources. “When you turn your faucet on to get water, there’s a certain dollar amount that they charge.

For White Oak council members, “I think it’s kind of going both ways. They want to see a tier system broken down then they want to see a base rate, whether it’s $7.81 or it could be $6. There’s so many different scenarios we’re going to have to look at to see what’s going to be best for White Oak and the citizens.”

In any case, residents can anticipate White Oak water rates will rise from being below-average for like-sized cities to within the average for communities with a similar population, a mean of about $40.75 per month.

Purcell hopes more information upfront will minimize the shock for residents once a final decision is made and the adjusted water rates start showing up on monthly bills.

“My job is to educate the citizens on how the city operates and how we need to continue to operate to have a city,” Purcell said. “There are some cities that are dissolving because they’re not running right.”

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