City approves $9M sewer system overhaul


Last Tuesday, the San Benito City Commission unanimously voted to approve two $9 million certificates of obligation to fund a sewer system upgrade and refinance old debt.

The move will not raise property taxes or the City’s water rate this year, as previously proposed by San Benito City Manager Manuel De La Rosa. However, De La Rosa mentioned that if there were any increase in services to pay for the capital improvements, it would be in the water rate.

“There is no proposed tax increase in the fiscal year 2021, nor is there a water increase. If there would be any, it would be in the water and it would be at a future date,” the City Manager told commissioners, saying he recommends a water rate study in 2021.

“The last rate study was eight years ago in 2011 sometime,” De La Rosa continued. “I cannot tell you what the water rates are going to look like in the future until you have the analysis in front of you. Then you and I will make an informed decision based upon those; you’ll get to vote on it. We may have to cut back on operations; we may have to make some kind of decision.”

The move comes as the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s March 2023 deadline looms over the City. If the City fails to fix six lift stations, they would face severe state fines.

Previous meetings had raised the fear that the move would prompt an increase in the City’s property tax rate.

Don Gonzales, a financial advisor with Estrada-Hinojosa & Company, Inc. from San Antonio, spoke to commissioners during last Tuesday’s meeting to inform them of the bonds’ terms.

The first amount financed totaled $9,010,529, (certificates of obligation) with $7M dedicated to lift station renovation/construction, $700,000 for fire vehicle and equipment, and $1M for other utility system improvements and related equipment. These “other” improvements include a possible purchase of land needed to access a particular lift station, a SCADA system for water plants 1 and 2, and an excavator, which will be approved later.

Editor’s note: This article has been edited for length. To read the full story, click here or grab a copy of the Aug. 27–Sept. 3, 2020 issue of the NEWS.

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