On November 21, 2023, the Sealy Texas City Council heard a presentation from Strand Engineering regarding the future of the city’s utility rates. The firm, tasked with reviewing rates for water, sewer, gas, and solid waste, presented a study aimed at ensuring just and reasonable rates for Sealy’s residents and businesses.
In the detailed presentation, the firm outlined their approach which involved a thorough analysis of current rate structures and projections for the next five years. Their goal was to balance the revenues and expenses, ensuring financial sustainability for the city’s utilities. The study acknowledged the importance of not disproportionately impacting residential rates, a concern shared by city staff, leading to alternative rate structuring proposals.
A significant focus of the meeting was on the proposed rates for 2024, emphasizing the importance of annual assessments to accommodate changes in capital improvement projects and potential new development agreements. The proposal included a moderate increase in gas rates, with the average residential rate potentially rising by 7 to 8%, equating to an additional $2 to $3 per month. This increase, though not fully covering anticipated gas expenses, represented a significant improvement compared to no increase at all.
For solid waste, a straightforward approach was suggested, with a proposed 4.5% increase for residents and 7% for commercial entities. This increment aligns closely with the annual rate increase of the waste management company servicing the city.
Water and sewer rates were also addressed, with a proposed minor increase of around 2% for typical residents, translating to an additional $0.80 on their monthly utility bill. This increment is part of a broader strategy to restructure the rate system, separating regular accounts into distinct categories for residents, commercial, industrial, and government entities. This restructuring aims to ensure fairer distribution of utility costs across different user groups.
The study also considered the impact of capital improvement projects outlined in the city’s master plan. Realizing the potential for these projects to unreasonably escalate rates, discussions with city officials led to the exploration of funding options through existing Certificate of Obligation Bonds.
The Strand Engineering representative stressed the importance of these proposed rates as the minimum required for 2024 to avoid placing an excessive financial burden on residents while ensuring the city could cover its utility expenses. The council, in response, prepared to deliberate on these recommendations, understanding the delicate balance between maintaining affordable rates and ensuring the long-term sustainability of Sealy’s utility services.