Saturday, May 21, 2005

Truth in Billing

I have been pushing for what I call "Truth in billing" for water for some time. The Texas Water Statutes require that water and sewer customers be notified at least annually and before any rate increase of all service or capital expenditures not related to water or sewer. This notification must be in writing.

At least half of the park and lake police expense fits into this category. Most of the parks have nothing to do with water. Until this year, the nature center was funded by the water fund. A strong case can be made that overhead expenses and fund transfers such as franchise fees and pilot should be listed separately from other costs. To my knowledge, the city has never supplied this type of notification. Why not?

Isn't it about time the city government told its customers what the water fund is really paying for in detail?


  1. You hit a sore pount with me for sure. The city's compliance with its own rules and ordinances is considerably more lax than what it asks of taxpayers. When we pointed out that the civil service commission was not complying with local ordinance requiring a meeting once a month, staff admitted we were right and this was an ordinance change the city needed to make.

    It was late in the sesssion and Council's sense of humor was not at its best, so I sat. I was tempted to point out that in the two animal cases, Ed the pig and Rufus, the Fox's bloodhound, although it was apparant in both cases that Council inclined to change the ordinance to allow for the animals, the owners in both cases still had to keep the beasts in boarding situations until Coucil could go through a first and second reading before bringing the pets home.

    By that standard, until Council gets around to changing the civil service ordinance, the civil service commision is technically violating the law every month they do not meet.

    I agree, there is not usually any real need for that commission to meet that often, but if the law is the law regarding our pets, then the law should also be the law when it involves a city group.

    At another time, I will get into other non-compliant city functions, and there are several. It just seems if taxpayers can be inconveninced due to technicalities, the city and its boards would do well to set the example of jumping through hoops to satisfy the law until it is changed, the same as us too frequently shined-on taxpayers.

    By the way, despite successfuly changing the ordinance relating to pot-bellied pigs, poor Ed died of old age the week he was finally legal to come home. I won't even try to claim the sudden change of scenery hastened his passing, 14 years is a good normal lifespan for this breed, probably just a coincidence proving that irony lives. My point still stands; if we the taxpayers have to live by the dotted i and the crossed t, the city should be willing to do the same it asks of us.

  2. I agree Jim. What we have here is like a government version of Rock, Scissors, Paper.

    State statute beats City Charter. City charter beats code of ordinances. Code of ordinances beats commission rules. Difference is, commission rules don't trump state statutes. I realize this is difficult for some bureaucrats to understand.

    We both know that the local civil service rules don't trump city ordinances but at the same time I know we both agree that it was best to give them a reasonable time to get in compliance. Of course, reasonable should be less than an election cycle.