TACO: City's Water Rates May Discriminate
The proposed charge for monthly base water fees charged to mobile homes and fixed RVs in San Benito, Texas, may discriminate against Winter Texans and may constitute age discrimination, the director of an organization that promotes Texas RV parks said Tuesday (April 3).
The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) is reviewing the city’s proposal as it considers legal action, Brian Schaeffer, the agency’s executive director, said.
The city’s utility board has proposed charging a base water fee to mobile homes and permanently tied-down RVs, the Brownsville Herald reported.
“I’m still not sure if they can single out a class of customer and implement a surcharge,” Schaeffer said. “It’s not right that you’re attacking a certain class of citizen with this fee.”
But Pete Claudio, chairman of the city’s utility board, said the proposal isn’t discriminatory because the charge applies to all year-round residents and apartment tenants.
“We’re not targeting Winter Texans,” Claudio said.
Schaeffer said the city’s proposal may constitute age discrimination and unjustly targets RV parks.
“The demographics on snowbirds is (age) 55-plus,” Schaeffer said. “I definitely think it’s discriminatory against those folks.”
A base water fee would unjustly target RV parks, Schaeffer said.
“Mobile home parks can show you books and records that (show) they’re the most conservative water users,” Schaeffer said. “That’s the craziness of this thing.”
Officials here have conducted an inventory of the number of mobile homes and fixed RVs within the city limits, but refused to release that information Tuesday after the Valley Morning Star filed a request under the Texas Public Information Act.
“The Public Information Act does not generally require the governmental entity to respond to general questions,” City Attorney Rick Morado said in a written statement. “We are required to provide documentary information that exists in paper or electronic format.”
The city has sparred with RV parks and Winter Texans since October when it passed an ordinance that charged a $10 base water fee to RV park sites, whether occupied or vacant.
In March, city officials suspended the ordinance after RV parks and Winter Texans argued it violated Senate Bill 569 and House Bill 841, which prohibit cities from charging water fees to unmetered RV sites.
City officials decided to charge the monthly $10 base water fee to ease the burden of rising water rates from single-home owners.
Since 2004, the city has raised water rates to help pay a $28.4 million debt for water and sewer improvements.