Concerns rise over water bills, proposed tax hike in small area town

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TEAGUE, Texas (KWTX) Teague city leaders took no action Monday night on a proposed budget funded by an increase in taxes.

(Photo by Rissa Shaw)

The Board of Aldermen for the City of Teague unanimously tabled ordinances enacting the municipal budget for Fiscal Year 2019-2020 and adopting a tax rate of $0.776732, an increase from the current tax rate of $0.759663.

"They're wanting to raise the taxes, they're wanting to raise the water rates--why?" said Teague resident Mark Morgan.

Residents like Morgan came to Monday night's specially called meeting in opposition of a budget they feel isn't justified.

"They're trying to compensate for no economic development," said Morgan.

Morgan, who works for an oilfield construction company in town, says he's concerned about raising tax and water rates when a city official, Theresa Prasil, presents a budget in which she gets a raise.

"Why give somebody a raise, the City Administrator a raise, that's making over $90,000 a year, when nothing has been accomplished," said Morgan. "I don't see anything that's been done."

The city's former police chief, Dan Ramsey, agrees, saying he's seeing businesses close and people moving out of town.

"I don't have a problem with someone making a large amount of money if you look around the city and see there's improvements," said Ramsey. "They've cut the budget on the police department I think, and I don't think they've given the parks department anymore money: police departments--they need a raise, the parks department--they need a raise."

Ramsey says the budget "isn't put together right" and pushed for one with more money for police in light of last week's officer involved shooting.

"Unfortunately, what happened the other day, just a prime example how important it is to have law enforcement," said Ramsey.

On Thursday, Dexter Glen Henderson, 63, was shot by a Teague police officer after authorities say Henderson attacked the officer with a cane. Both were injured but survived.

The city's current police chief, DeWayne Philpott, took to social media Monday to dispel a rumor that the shooting was caused by a man irate over his water bill.

Philpott's statement reads, in part: "First and foremost, the incident had nothing to do with the current water bill situation within the City of Teague. This rumor is utterly ridiculous and furthest from the truth. Teague Police Department IS NOT involved in the your petty disputes over water billing for the city. We are not collection agents and DO NOT subscribe to deadly force over civil matters, such as your water bill disputes. Other than calling the police for assistance with a person placing people (employees and citizens) in fear of their safety by their actions, city hall officials have nothing to do with the outcome of this incident."

Many residents are upset with the current water bill situation within the City of Teague, however, saying it's gotten out of control.

"They usually run about $120 a month, and then all the sudden, last summer, they skyrocketed to $450 to $600 a month and there was no explanation, and I sure wasn't given any of my money back either," said Morgan.

Morgan says the city has been giving him the runaround.

"It's either 'you have a leak' or 'someone is stealing your water,'" said Morgan. "Well now we're all getting new meters--that's a whole other issue: are they being read right, are they calibrated right, are they being installed correctly?"

"It's just a never-ending saga here," he said.

City officials addressed the water meter billing situation in a Facebook post last week.

"We have contacted the manufacturer and the installation company who are in charge of the City's Project for making the upgrades to the City's water meter and billing system. Due to the number of concerns and matters brought to our attention today we have requested that they examine these issues and the system. We understand that this has caused some confusion and frustrations but we ask that you please bare with us as we work through this situation. The staff in the office have and will continue to audit and try to identify any issues that may exist. To ensure we address your concerns and billing questions we ask that you email us your concerns to workorder@cityofteaguetx.com or come by City Hall."

The city is extending the due dates of this month's utility bill and will not access late fees until Sept. 16, Prasil said in a previous statement.

KWTX left a message for Prasil Monday night immediately following the specially called meeting but did not hear back.

"I think it's a hard pill for people to swallow with raising their taxes and raising their water bill at the same time," said Ramsey.

Residents can voice their concerns about their water bill, or any city issue, at the City of Teague's quarterly town hall meeting Tuesday night at City Hall.