BROWNSVILLE, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Brownsville Public Utilities Board customers are seeing dramatic changes in their bills after city commissioners voted and approved of rate reductions for electricity and increases in water for a multi-million dollar resaca project in May.

City commissioners approved to lower the base rate of electricity bills by 22% and increase service charges, rates and Resaca Restoration Project maintenance fees for all utility water customers during a May 3 Brownsville City Commission meeting.

“We rely on these funds to support ongoing growth and improvement projects that benefit our customers and the community,” John S. Bruciak, General Manager and CEO of BPUB said.

Officials from BPUB and commissioners gathered at a city commission meeting on Sept. 20 to find a solution to the financial rise in utility bills.

During the meeting, District 2 Commissioner Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa suggested adding payment plans to customer bills and suspending the resaca fee indefinitely.

Bruciak refuted Tetreau-Kalifa’s suggestion saying it would “jeopardize the federal funds” the city is receiving to help pay for the city’s Resaca project.

Suggestions are expected to be revisited at a future city commission meeting.

CBS 4 Investigates Lead Investigator Derick Garcia reached out to the Brownsville City Commissioners and requested that they provide a record of their BPUB bills over the last six months.

Brownsville city commissioners who voted for the changes declined to comment or show their bills.

District 3 Commissioner Roy De Los Santos voted against the rate increase during the May 3 city commissioner meeting and sent his bills to CBS 4 Investigates Team.

“What’s the good of owning your own utility if you don’t see a benefit from it,” Santos said. “During the winter storm, we heard about people get 10 and 20 and $30,000 electric bills because of the spikes in demand and the price of natural gas being pegged to the highest it has been. PUB did not pass that along to our customers. 

“So, I think that right there was a great example of what the benefit is of owning our utility. Now we’re in another crisis with rising natural gas prices. And so coming back to that is now what do we do for our constituents.”

The Brownsville Public Utilities Board provides bill payment assistance programs to residential customers who are 62 years or older, low-income status, experiencing medical or funeral expenses and/or experiencing unemployment due to COVID-19.

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