How will my water bill change? JXN Water announces new graduated rate structure

Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 12:26 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Come January, Jackson water customers will likely see some major changes to their monthly statements.

On Friday, JXN Water Manager Ted Henifin announced a new tiered rate structure, in part, to help boost revenues, and to help encourage water conservation.

The changes mean that most residential customers in Jackson will see slight increases in what they pay for water and sewer, while customers with commercial meters will see more significant price hikes.

Meanwhile, customers who currently receive SNAP benefits will see their rates go down. SNAP is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. About 12,500 customers in Jackson receive those benefits, JXN Water data shows.

Henifin says the new structure is needed to help fund water and sewer system operations, make capital improvements, and pay off existing debt.

Jackson has about $260 million in outstanding water and sewer debt. Payments on that debt are about $2 million a month.

That’s in addition to the roughly $2 billion the city needs to address all of its water and sewer infrastructure needs. Earlier this year, Jackson received some $800 million in federal allocations. However, the majority of those funds can be used solely for water.

As for the lower SNAP rates, Henifin said they’re needed to encourage economically disadvantaged residents to pay, and low enough that he can justify cutting services if customers won’t.

“We have to collect, and if the bill is not affordable, we will get back into the same spiral we were in before, where people can’t afford to pay their bill, we shut it off, they work around it, and it creates a real stress on the community,” he said.

Under the new rate structure, customers will be charged $6 for each CCF used up to 30 CCFs, $12 for each CCF consumed from 31 to 100 CCFs, $14 for every CCF between 101 and 350 CCFs used, and $16 for every CCF consumed beyond that.

Monthly metered useRate (water and sewer combined)
0 to 30 CCF$6 per CCF
31 to 100 CCF$12 per CCF
101 to 350 CCF$14 per CCF
351+ CCF$16 per CCF
Source: JXN Water

The average family in Jackson uses approximately 5,000 gallons a month, or about 6.7 CCFs, data from JXN Water shows.

The company also is implementing new “availability charges” for water meters, based on meter size. The smallest meters will cost $40 a month, while the largest commercial meters will cost $2,560.

Henifin shared several mock statements to show how the new structure would work.

For customers with a 5/8″ meter who use six CCFs per month, their bill would go from around $67 to $76 before taxes.

For SNAP customers with the same size meter and the same water usage, bills would go from $67 to $46 a month. SNAP customers pay the same amount for water and sewer, but a reduced rate for meters, Henifin explained.

On the commercial side, a customer with a four-inch meter who uses 345 CCFs per month will see their monthly statement go from around $3,200 to around $4,990.

Henifin said even with the proposed increases, most restaurant owners in Jackson are pleased with JXN Water and the service currently being provided.

“When they weren’t getting our service, there was a tremendous loss of product, loss of business. [There was] a challenge to even get business continuity insurance as a result of the water system here,” he said. “They now have not experienced a problem in the last 11 months. [If] we get through this winter, I think everyone’s got a lot of confidence that we’re back in a place we need to be.”

Restaurants across the city have been hard hit by the city’s ongoing water issues. In August 2022, a group of owners approached the city council saying if something wasn’t done, a lot of establishments would be forced to close.

That was prior to the city’s August/September water crisis and the Christmas crisis, both of which left tens of thousands of people without water for days.

Since Christmas, the city has had no water system shutdowns, and boil water notices have been localized to smaller areas, rather than citywide. JXN Water also has improved pressure systemwide, in part, by moving customers in South Jackson off the surface water system and back onto well water.

All of this has been done since Henifin was appointed third-party manager last year. He was put in charge of the water system as part of a federal court order signed by U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate. In September, Henifin also was put in charge of the city’s sewer system.

The increases made public Friday would be the first ones implemented since the third party took over.

However, the new rate structure still must be signed off on by the council if Henifin hopes to implement it sooner rather than later.

Under the terms of the stipulated court order, the third-party manager must present any proposed rate changes to the mayor, who then must present the matter to the city council for approval.

If the council does not approve the rate increase, and it has been more than 365 days since the last one, the ITPM will have the “full power and authority” to raise rates without council approval and with 30 days’ notice to the mayor, council, director of Public Works, and the public.

Henifin told reporters he planned to present the proposal to Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba on Friday and hoped to have a proposal on the council’s agenda for December 5.

Henifin had not spoken to the mayor at the time of the press conference but had already met with the governor and lieutenant governor, and both of them said the plans passed legal muster.

“We got [the lieutenant governor’s] nod and met with the governor this week... Gave them an opportunity to give some feedback... to make sure they weren’t caught off guard with what we’re doing,” he said. “Once this gets submitted to the city, we will obviously be available to talk more, as needed.”

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