San Benito mulls tax hike, water rate increase, street fee

Downtown San Benito store fronts will soon get a touch up as part of the city’s beautification program

SAN BENITO — Residents might be paying more for city services soon.

Earlier this week, City Manager Manuel De La Rosa presented city commissioners with “options” ranging from a tax hike, a water rate increase and a street maintenance surcharge along with a proposed $7.4 million bond issue to fund a state-mandated sewer system overhaul.

In a workshop, De La Rosa proposed options including as much as a 3-cent property tax rate increase that would boost the general fund budget’s revenues from $12.2 million to $12.38 million.

As officials plan their budget for the upcoming fiscal year, De La Rosa also proposed boosting water rates to offset a water production fund shortfall of $880,022.

For years, the city’s water rates have stood as some of the highest in the Rio Grande Valley.

Currently, the city’s base residential water rate is $20.59 for up to 2,000 gallons for homes with 5/8-inch meters and its sewer rate is $29.09 for up to 2,000 gallons.

Meanwhile, De La Rosa also presented commissioners with an option to charge a street maintenance fee.

The surcharge would be linked to a $1 million bond issue aimed at funding the beginning of a street maintenance program, De La Rosa stated Wednesday.

“ I presented an option to create a state maintenance fee to allow us to issue a $1 million bond to fund the start of a street maintenance program,” he stated. “After the bond is paid off, we should be able to continue the street maintenance program into the future with the funds that were dedicated to the bond payment.”

Proposed $7.4 million sewer upgrade

Meanwhile, De La Rosa proposed a $7.4 million bond issue to fund a state-mandated sewer system upgrade.

As part of a 2012 agreement, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is requiring the city upgrade its sewer system by March 2023 or face severe fines and corrective action as a result of sewer spills about 10 years ago.

Last year, commissioners borrowed $1.5 million through the sale of certificates of obligation to fund the planning and design phase of the project to rebuild six sewer lift stations.

For nearly 10 years, the multimillion-dollar sewer system overhaul has loomed over one of Texas’ the poorest cities.

In October 2012, the city entered into an agreement with TCEQ to participate in its Sanitary Sewer Overflow Initiative program following a series of sewage spills near the Arroyo Colorado totaling 49,000 gallons from November 2009 to January 2010.

As part of an agreement, the state waived penalties, ordering the city to upgrade its sewer system by March 2023 or face severe fines and corrective action.