RIO RANCHO, N.M., (KRQE) – Some residents in Rio Rancho were surprised when they opened their water bill this month but the city said residents should have expected the increase.
In 2012, the city conducted an independent survey that looked at water and wastewater rates. Then in 2013 the city council approved a 5-year-rate hike, recommended from the study, that raised residents water bills by nearly eight percent every year. Some residents feel they’re being hit with more than that.
A string of residents who live in the Northern Meadows subdivision of Rio Rancho seemed surprised by their water bill. Many took to Facebook saying their bills had nearly doubled. One person said their typical bill of $100 jumped to $250. Another family got hit with a $370 bill when they were used to paying around $200.
The city couldn’t explain why some peoples’ bills have shot up so much, saying it would need to look into each case to see if it’s true and to pinpoint a reason. The city also said it could be that some residents are using more water or they could have a leak.
Residents like Roberta Clark aren’t buying it.
“When I see that my neighbors have smaller household sizes than we have and they’re paying twice as much as I am, in the same community, that confuses me,” she said.
The 5-year-rate hike was intended to help pay for a re-do of the city’s aging water infrastructure. This is the last year of that 5-year-rate hike.
According to the city, “the average residential customer’s water and wastewater monthly bill increased from approximately $80 to approximately $106.”
Residents like Clark said they’re concerned for others.
“Single parents in the community and elderly in this community that are on a fixed budget, there’s no way that they would be able to recover from a $450 water bill,” she said.
KRQE News 13 also learned that the city plans to do another study to see if rates should go up again. The city is allocating $100,000 for the study. KRQE News 13 asked the city how it can justify spending that kind of money when some people can’t afford the current rate.
The city sent this response:
“It is necessary and quite common for municipalities to conduct rate studies in order to plan for future needs. The last rate study was done in 2012 and another study would help elected officials make a decision on whether or not a rate increase is required. Additionally, the rate increases that just concluded were to address current needs, not future growth. To put into context, the budget for the Utilities Department is $40 million and there are approximately $20 million in waterline needs that must be addressed. This $100,000 rate study is important so that the City can make sure that both short and long term needs are being met.”