The San Antonio Water System will not seek a residential rate increase next year as part of its proposed 2023 budget — however, it will give all of its employees a pay raise, utility officials said during a budget briefing Tuesday.

SAWS Chief Financial Officer Doug Evanson said the utility will not seek a rate increase from residents in its 2023 budget, but it is moving forward with its plan to update its rate structure, which should reduce costs for most residential customers. If approved by the utility’s board in November, it will be SAWS largest budget ever at $978.5 million.

Under the proposed spending plan, all SAWS employees will see a raise, depending on what they earn in a year, Evanson said. Those who make less than $100,000 — 89% of all SAWS employees — will get a 10% raise. Those who make more will see smaller raises. SAWS is also boosting its minimum wage from $16.00 to $17.60 per hour.

Because the utility’s 2022 budget is coming in at about almost $54 million more than what SAWS originally budgeted, staff-wide pay raises will take effect this month, Evanson said. The utility is in the green due to SAWS budgeting finesse, said Gavino Ramos, SAWS’ vice president of communications. Annual raises usually go into effect in April, noted SAWS President and CEO Robert Puente.

All SAWS employees will see a bigger paycheck starting this month due to a budget surplus.
All SAWS employees will see a bigger paycheck starting this month due to a budget surplus. Credit: Courtesy / San Antonio Water System

“So [these raises are] coming to these employees eight months early,” Puente said, smiling. He said inflation and high gas prices make it a critical move.

Within its $978.5 million budget, $524.7 million will be allocated to its proposed capital improvement program. About $267 million will go to wastewater improvements, $215 million for water delivery projects, $25 million for water supply projects, and almost $17 million for improvements to the chilled water system.

The utility will be able to pay for these changes to employee compensation and additional projects through “smart budgeting,” Puente said, and with the help of its updated rate structure, which was introduced to the board last month and which will also be voted on in November, in a separate vote. The new structure makes it so heavier water users — such as commercial and industrial users — will be paying, as Puente called it, “their fair share,” while low water users — most residents, will pay less.

Under this new structure, up to 83% of residential customers will see a reduction in their monthly water bill next year, and all residential customers will see a reduction in their monthly wastewater bill. The new structure will also reduce 98% of the utility’s Affordability Discount Program users’ bills. All residential bills will reflect reduced wastewater charges under the new structure.

The new structure would reduce the number of rate tiers from eight to five, making it so users who use less than 9,000 gallons per month could see up to a 16% reduction on their bill, while those who use 9,000 to 11,000 gallons could see a 2% increase. Those using more than 12,000 gallons could see an increase up to 8%, officials said.

The SAWS board will next meet Tuesday, Oct. 4. It will hear additional 2023 budget information at this time.

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report. A native San Antonian, she graduated from Texas A&M University in 2016 with a degree in telecommunication media...