State Won’t Help After Water Dispute Closes Texas Town’s Schools

AUSTIN (January 15, 2014) The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Wednesday rejected a plea from the small La Villa Independent School District to force the City of La Villa to turn the water back on so students can return to class.

The TCEQ said it doesn’t have authority to address the underlying water fee dispute between the City of La Villa and the school district and declined to issue the emergency order school officials were seeking.

Commissioners said they were upset that students were being used as pawns, but said they could not act.

The city cut off water to the district after students left for holiday vacation, saying the district owes about $58,000.

Classes were to have resumed Monday, but schools remained closed Wednesday.

The town, about 25 miles east of McAllen, shut water off to the district shortly before Christmas, more than a year after the long-festering dispute began.

According to a flurry of letters from both sides, the district continued to pay its water bill at a previous rate, ignoring a change in December 2012 that increased a surcharge for each consumer at the district to $14 from $6.

The Texas Education Agency told the district that lost days can be made up, the press release said.