Fort Worth wants to triple this fee on your water bill. Here’s the city’s plan for the money

·3 min read
Harrison Mantas/hmantas@star-telegram.com

Your water bill could go up a little bit next year, but not because of anything coming out of the tap.

Fort Worth is considering tripling the environmental protection fee residents and businesses pay every month on their water bills. It’s part of an effort to increase the city’s capacity to clean streets and remove litter, while also spreading the costs of litter pick up move evenly.

Monthly fees for residential users will go from 50 cents to $1.50, while fees for commercial users will go from $10 to $30 per month and fees for industrial users will go from $35 to $105 per month.

This is the first time the fee has been increased since it was introduced in 1995.

Mayor Pro Tem Gyna Bivens said she has no objections to the rate increase given the needs of a growing city and the fact that the fee hasn’t been increased in 27 years.

“No one wants to see a water bill go up, but if we can deliver the service responsibly in a timely fashion maybe the rub won’t be so challenging,” Bivens said.

District 3 council member Michael Crain said he’s not usually a fan of increasing fees, but said feedback from his constituents convinced him it might be needed.

“I get calls all the time from neighborhoods of why aren’t we getting our streets cleaned and I have to explain we only have two street sweepers for the whole city,” he said.

Those two sweepers can only cover 580 of Fort Worth’s roughly 8,100 miles of city streets per month.

If the city increases the fee, it’s proposing buying 10 additional street sweepers, which it estimates can cover a combined 6,380 miles every month.

The city is also proposing some of the funds be used to expand the number of litter crews.

The city currently has three litter crews, which it contracts through a partnership with the UpSpire program run by the Presbyterian Night Shelter of Tarrant County.

The program provides shelter residents with stable employment, case management support, and job skill development.

The city is proposing expanding the crews from three to 10, which it says would allow those crews to cover a combined 1,380 miles per month instead of the 410 miles per month covered currently.

There’s a reason why one of the themes of this years budget is cleanliness, said district 2 council member Carlos Flores.

He said a majority of calls city council members get from residents are about the city not doing its job when it comes to keeping the streets clean.

Flores said the fee increase is a way to meet that need while also spreading those costs more equally between residents and businesses.

Residents currently pay for 90% of the cost of the city’s solid-waste fund, which includes the roughly $4.4 million the city spends on street cleaning, litter pick up and homeless camp abatement per year.

The city is proposing shifting that $4.4 million to its environmental protection fund to spread the costs more evenly among residents and businesses.

Flores compared the city’s current approach to litter to its reliance on property taxes, which made up roughly 56% of the city’s 2022 budget.

He argued that businesses also benefit from the city’s street cleaning efforts, and should share in those costs.

Flores was supportive of the plan from a policy standpoint, but said he was still evaluating what the right balance should be to make sure businesses and residents are contributing equally.

The city council has four more scheduled budget work sessions, and each council member is holding a town hall to get feedback on the budget from their constituents.

Any fee increase will have to be approved as part of the final budget, which the council is scheduled to vote on at its Sept. 27 meeting.

If the increase gets approved, it won’t show up on rate payers’ water bills until January 2023.