A slight utility rate increase may be coming for San Marcos residents


The city looks to fill a hit from COVID-19 while keeping some projects going

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — “It’s a struggle for everybody,” says Pete Cordova, who lives in San Marcos.

Since the pandemic, Cordova’s maintenance hours have been cut in half.

In order to stay on top of his bills, he’s been taking on other jobs.

“I’m a person that doesn’t like to be behind on nothing, owing nobody. But whatever it takes– you’ve got to go cut grass, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” he says.

In an effort to balance needs, San Marcos city council members opted for a 6.5% increase in drainage fees instead of 12% for fiscal year 2021.

San Marcos city council members directed staff to pursue option #4, a 6.5% drainage charge increase.

“We know that we’re in an unprecedented time and we don’t want to impact residents and businesses anymore than what we have to,” says San Marcos city manager Bert Lumbreras.

The drainage charge shows up on your utility bill that also includes water, trash and community beautification fee, says city spokesperson Kristy Stark.

“The drainage fee applies to both residential and commercial properties and is charged based on the amount of impervious cover on the property,” Stark says.

The increase translates to about 50 cents to a little over a dollar for the average homeowner.

Less money for projects means they “will be implemented at a slower pace and prioritized to address areas where damage to structures has occurred,” City engineering director Laurie Moyer told KXAN in an email.

A lower rate increase means less money for stormwater improvement projects.

“San Marcos traditionally has had a lot of challenges with drainage problems and so we’re trying to address many of those issues with this revenue source,” Lumbreras says.

Revenue shortfall

Utility rate changes are part of the larger budget discussion as the City ends FY19 in September.

The City is working on a COVID-19 impacted budget, with a projected net shortfall of about $2 million. The previous projection was about $6 million, but staff say April sales tax were higher than expected.

Still, there’s a projected reduction in sales tax revenue of at least 6.5% for FY21, said Lumbreras– and the pandemic isn’t over, yet.

“Now obviously moving forward as we’re planning the budget for the next fiscal years, starting in October, that is a little bit harder to predict because not knowing the state of the reopenings and the fluctuations that that has had and the fact that San Marcos and Hays County is now considered to be a hotspot,” Lumbreras says.

He says they have already saved about $4.7 million dollars by taking proactive moves, like holding vacant positions and delaying street maintenance projects.

Now, San Marcos is looking at possibly cutting back services to help fill the budget gap.

Next, they’d look at early retirement for some employees.

Lumbreras says they won’t consider layoffs until absolutely necessary – and it has not come to that point, yet.

City manager Bert Lumbreras said these are cost-cutting measures being considered, with layoffs being the last option.

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