Tucson Water may charge county customers more

Tucson Water may charge county customers more

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A cash strapped city of Tucson is considering a variety of ways to pad its general fund with more revenue.

One idea being floated is to charge Tucson Water customers, who live in the unincorporated areas of Pima County, up to 10 percent more for the same service.

"It's still in the very, very, very early stages," said Andy Squire, a spokesman for the city manager's office. "We don't even know if the city will accept it or reject it or even talk about it at this point."

Most cities in the state already impose a surcharge for customers outside the city limits, including a 50 percent surcharge in Yuma. Others include Phoenix, Scottsdale, Glendale and Flagstaff. Most are 15 percent to 30 percent.

In some cases, as in Tucson, the consideration is lift fees. In the mountainous and hilly areas surrounding the city, it costs more to pump water uphill and longer distances.

Some believe that customers should be made to pay for that.

Mike Waid is not one of those.

"You're treating people differently based on where they live," he said. "The big issue is why one group should pay more than another."

The proposal, if it gets that far, would need to be vetted through public hearings and council meetings.

It's likely there would be some push back.

"I think from a philosophical stand, it's egregious because you are not treating people equally," he said. "For them to single out a class of people, which is where they live, what neighborhood they live in, and say they have to pay more than somebody else, it doesn't come down to a business decision, it's a political decision."

The city manager's office estimates the 10 percent surcharge could raise $5 million annually, which can be used to pay to upgrade infrastructure.

But it may also be used to encourage some neighborhoods to annex into the city.

"This could be another way to make that argument," said Squire. "It could be seen as a discounted water rate by belonging to the city."

By annexing into an incorporated area, it would also increase the amount of money the region receives in state shared revenues.

Revenues are give to incorporated cities and towns, not to unincorporated areas.

Tucson city leaders attempted to impose lift fees in the mid-70s, which led to a successful recall effort against four city council members.

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