The San Antonio Water System (SAWS) Board of Trustees on Wednesday was briefed on the 2018 budget proposal, which includes a 5.8% rate increase for the coming year. The current proposed operating budget is $781.8 million.

The rate adjustment, if approved by the SAWS board and City Council in November, would help fund a portion of the $1.1 billion needed to repair infrastructure so that it complies with Environmental Agency Protection (EPA) regulations. At a price tag of $38 million, the Salado Creek and Holbrook Road would receive new sewer mains to meet the EPA requirements.

Another $44.6 million would be invested in the water system, including the second phase of construction on a water integration pipeline on the city’s Westside. Rate adjustment funds would also go toward a pilot program that would collect water usage data more efficiently, and $41.2 million would fund rehabilitation of water pump stations.

“This rate adjustment includes an important allocation needed to fund water line replacements,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg, who attended Tuesday’s budget proposal. “The additional revenue will enable SAWS to replace aging critical systems throughout the city, as well as support SAWS improvements being made in connection with street projects funded by the City’s 2017 bond program. The longer we delay this work, the more vulnerable our water system becomes and the more it will cost ratepayers in the long run.”

If approved, the rate increase would take effect in January 2018, and be reflected in bills beginning in February.

SAWS Vice President of Accounting & Business Planning Mary Bailey presented the budget and outlined expectations for how some of the funds would be used if the budget is approved.

The Vista Ridge project would receive $4.9 million to install the electric utility components necessary for powering the pipeline. Another $2.2 million would be allocated to meeting basic regulatory requirements, including around $1 million for man hole rehabilitation. Funds would also go toward performing a feasibility study of Mitchell Lake, which Bailey said would address the correspondence from the EPA.

SAWS employees would see their wages increase if the new budget passes – from $14 an hour to $14.50, Bailey said. The utility is on track to achieve its goal of implementing a $15 minimum wage in the next few years.

Despite rising medical costs around the country, SAWS expects its own cost of providing health insurance to decrease.

SAWS staff will be hosting community outreach meeting leading up the budget vote. These sessions will include in-person meetings, online videos, and social media posts. The final budgetary meeting will be held at SAWS headquarters in October and will be streamed through Facebook Live.

SAWS is scheduled to vote on the budget on Nov. 7, and City Council will vote on it Nov. 9.

Jeffrey Sullivan is a Rivard Report reporter. He graduated from Trinity University with a degree in Political Science.