City of Abilene Considers "Rate Study" in Response to High Water Bills

ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) - The City of Abilene is considering moving forward with a water rate study in response to thousands of complaints about high bills in August and September of 2016.

City Council members will vote on hiring a company to conduct the study during their meeting Thursday morning.

The water rate study will consist of two parts - a basic rate study with the following four tasks that will cost $71,560.00:

  • Task 1 – Cost of Service and Rate Design
  • Task 2 – Mechanisms for Paying for Growth
  • Task 3 – Financial Planning and Rate Design Model
  • Task 4 – Presentation to City Council

And, an optional Investigation of Billing Functions and Forensic Audit with the following three tasks that will cost $63,173:

  • Task 5(A) – Review and Benchmark of Meter Reading & Back Office
  • Task 5(B) – Forensic Review of Billing System
  • Task 5(C) – Prepare Report & Presentation to City Council 

Raftelis Financial Consultants, Inc., a consulting firm based out of Austin, Texas, will oversee the study if hired by the Abilene City Council.

The City Council will also decide they wish to pursue both parts of the study or just the basic rate study. 

The study comes after thousands of City of Abilene water customers complained of high bills in late 2016. 

City Manager Robert Hanna said the increase was mostly due to higher consumption after water restrictions were relaxed city-wide in August, allowing residents to water outside three times a week instead of just one.

But, Hanna did confirm 191 customers were negatively affected by the City of Abilene's estimation process, meaning these customers used more water than was was estimated for their accounts, so when the accounts were actually read the next month, they showed an increased usage.

This estimation process will be reviewed if city council members decided to move forward with the optional part of the rate study.

BigCountryHomepage is following this story closely and will provide updates as they develop. Check back for the latest. 

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