By Elsa Maxey
Those living in parts of Sugar Land outside the city limits are not city water utility customers, yet. They get their water from a MUD (Municipal Utility District), which means that their water rates are probably different than those of the city.
According to Sugar Land spokesperson Doug Adolph, until these areas are annexed, known as ETJs (Extra Territorial Jurisdictions), will their water supplier become the city. So, in all likelihood, that’s when they will pay the same rate as other city water customers.
A resident in Greatwood, which is in Sugar Land’s ETJ served by a MUD, asks about surface water conversion rates for that neighborhood. Adolph told the “Star” that Greatwood has three MUDs, and residents also pay a fee for fire protection that is billed through the MUD. In particular, the inquiring Greatwood resident wants to know why they are paying more in surface water conversion fees than residents in Sugar Land’s city limits.
“All participants in the City’s GRP (Groundwater Reduction Plan) pay the same pumpage fee to the city,” which is increasing in January 2012, states city spokesperson Adolph. But, he also said that participants outside the city limits pay an additional 20 percent out of city service charge in accordance with a Strategic Partnership Agreement having to do with city services. The funds are deposited to help pay off MUD debts “when it comes time for the city to annex and dissolve the districts.”
Adolph said the 20 percent out of city service charge does not mean the district is paying more for surface water fees, but rather, “it is them (the district) setting aside funding to facilitate their future annexation into the city.”
MUDS determine customers’ pumpage fees. “We do not dictate how they bill their customers or when they raise the rates,” said Adolph, noting that residents getting water from a MUD are not city utility customers, which explains why water rates and effective dates can be different from those of a city utility customer.
Adolph also said that MUD districts often “buy-down” their water and wastewater rates through their property tax levy, which helps MUDs cover some of their fixed costs while keeping their monthly bills for service low.
What may be confusing to some is that in Sugar Land’s city limits there remain some MUDs in neighborhoods that do not provide water, and yet the water provider is the city. These “in-city MUDs,” as they are called, remain in place as part of the neighborhood’s original infrastructure when they first came into being, and residents are paying off a previously incurred debt, according to Adolph.
So does everyone who lives in the Sugar Land city limits get their water from the city? Yes, even those in the “in-city MUDs” such as the ones in Telfair, three of them, where residents, even after annexation, have continued to pay towards a MUD debt. Other “in-city” MUDs include Burney Road MUDs, the one in the Sugar Land Business Park, MUD No. 21, and Lakewood MUD No. 10.
Although Sugar Land will be doubling its surface water rate from $0.76 to $1.42 per 1,000 gallons in January, city water utility customers will see their overall water bill increase by 12 percent.