A judge approved Liberty Utilities' interim rates for customers in Tyler and Smith County effective today. Tall Timbers customers in Tyler and Woodmark customers in Smith County will see increases on their September bills. Tall Timbers customers outside Tyler city limits will see no increase this year, but will see increases in the following years.
Liberty Utilities customers in Tyler and Smith County can expect to see rate increases on their September bills, if a judge approves a motion filed Monday.
After reaching a settlement last week, the utility company filed a joint motion to implement interim rates effective Tuesday, Aug. 1. A judge from the State Office of Administrative Hearings must issue an order approving the interim rates if they are to go into effect.
This would be the first of three rate increases implemented for the company’s almost 3,500 Tyler/Smith County customers over the next two years.
Tall Timbers customers living in Tyler, who currently pay $27.75, would see the highest percentage increases of all the local customers, with a 50 percent increase each year for the next two years, reaching a rate of $65.60 by 2019.
Tall Timbers customers outside of Tyler, who currently pay $54.93, would see a lower percentage increase, with no increase this year, followed by increases for the next two years, reaching the $65.60 rate by 2019.
Woodmark customers would pay the most money outright with current rates at $66.92 and jumping to $90.53 in 2019.
All customers would see final 2019 rates lower than what the utility company initially proposed last fall.
The rate increase as proposed last fall would have more than tripled some customers’ monthly bills and was met with widespread opposition.
Customers submitted more than 1,000 protests to the Public Utility Commission of Texas.
The number of protests from Smith County customers triggered an automatic hearing at the state level and, in December, the Public Utility Commission referred the case to the State Office of Administrative Hearings to address factual disputes.
At the same time, the city of Tyler was addressing the rate request for its residents and in April, the city denied the company’s application for a rate increase saying it lacked the authority to approve rates based on alternate ratemaking methodologies, which the company was proposing in its application.
Liberty appealed the city’s decision to the Public Utility Commission of Texas and, in June, a judge with the State Office of Administrative Hearings consolidated the appeal with the rest of the case it already was addressing.
The parties to the case include Liberty Utilities, the Public Utility Commission of Texas, the Texas Office of Public Utility Counsel, the city of Tyler and intervenors who own multiple properties.
The parties reached a settlement in principle on July 24, a day before a hearing about the merits of the case was scheduled to start in Austin.
These interim rates would be temporary pending development of volumetric rates for consideration by the parties.
The volumetric rates would be based, in part, on water usage, according to the news release.
Given Liberty Utilities is not the water provider for Tall Timbers or Woodmark customers, the company is working with Southern Utilities and the city of Tyler to collect the necessary water usage data to develop volumetric rates.
In addition, Liberty is allotting $10,000 annually for a low-income and elderly assistance program, which it is in the process of developing.
A CLOSER LOOK
This chart shows the current rates followed by the first, second and third phase of increases for Liberty Utilities customers. If a judge approves these rates, the increases would go into effect Aug. 1 of 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Tall Timbers (inside Tyler) $27.75; $41.63; $62.45; $65.60
Tall Timbers (outside Tyler) $54.93; $54.93; $62.45; $65.60
Woodmark $66.92; $71.85; $79.76; $90.53
© 2018 KYTX-TV