House passes legislation to prohibit property-value based water and sewer billing

A similar bill was recently passed in the Senate.
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File photo(Rogelio V. Solis | AP)
Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 10:45 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A second bill that would block Jackson from setting water rates based on property values has been passed, this time in the House.

Tuesday, representatives voted 83-28 to approve H.B. 698, which would mandate that municipalities charge for water based solely on what comes out of the faucet.

“[It] simply requires that a municipality issue water and sewer bills based on the amount of water or sewer used by a customer,” said Rep. Shanda Yates, the bill’s author.

A similar bill passed out of the Senate on January 26. That measure has been transferred to the House and referred to the House Public Utilities Committee.

Yates introduced the measure in response to the Jackson water manager’s plan to implement a new rate structure based on property values.

During roughly an hour of debate, Yates was grilled by multiple lawmakers, including several from the capital city.

Rep. Ronnie Crudup Jr. asked if the bill would “tie the hands of the third-party manager... to come up with a more equitable formula to use in getting water bills.”

Yates said she couldn’t think of a more equitable way to charge customers than for what they use.

Interim Third-Party Manager Ted Henifin proposed a new rate structure for the city recently. Under his proposal, rates would be based on a home’s true assessed value, rather than the amount of water coming through the meter.

Henifin says the plan will increase revenues coming into the water department, while at the same time take the burden of high water bills off of lower-income families. Meanwhile, for high earners, bills would be capped at $150.

Currently customers are charged a set amount for every 748 gallons of water used.

Rep. De’Keither Stamps asked Yates multiple times whether the legislation would impact a city’s ability to issue estimated bills when there are problems with their billing systems.

Yates refused to give a yes or no answer, repeating “water bills have to be based on the amount of water that a customer is using.”

She later said she didn’t know the answer to that question.

“We should hear from all municipalities before we [pass a bill that would] affect all municipalities,” Stamps said.

Rep. Zakiya Summers, meanwhile, questioned Yates on whether she had gotten the support of other members of the Jackson delegation or the Mississippi Municipal League.

Yates, who represents Northeast Jackson, said she did have support among some members, but had not spoken to or heard from MML.

Two members of the Jackson delegation, Yates and Rep. Earle Banks, voted in favor of the measure. Reps. Crudup, Bo Brown, Alyce Clarke, Stephanie Foster, Christopher Bell and Zakiya Summers voted against it. Stamps voted present.

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