Poteet ISD over-billed more than $10K by city

 Over $10K was over-billed to Poteet ISD by the City of Poteet in water usage fees over the course of a four month billing period. The total, according to Cesario Vela of Communities Unlimited may even increase as more bills are reviewed. 

At the January 23 meeting of the Poteet ISD board of trustees, Amanda Garcia, Director of Finance, provided this update along with further information. Vela was tasked to look into the water billing of the school district when concerns were raised by increases in the district’s water bills. Vela, who has 48 years of experience in the water and wastewater field has worked various jobs from reading meters to director of public works. He has over 10 years of experience in providing financial management assistance and has the highest certification issued by Texas Commission of Environmental Quality. 

Vela helped the school district by first reviewing several water bills and made several discoveries. A water meter in place on Horton Rd. near the elementary wasn’t turned on from August 2014 to February 2016. The City of Poteet is responsible for installing and turning on water meters. However, this didn’t take place and the district had never been billed for that water usage. When the water meter was turned on, the city’s system wasn’t reading the meters correctly. Garcia used an example to explain to the school boardwhat was happening. 

“For example, in the first month, the meter started at zero because it’s barely getting turned on. Then, when they came to read the meter it says that we consumed 100 gallons of water… What happens is $100 is the ending reading. Then, whatever we use, now we used 200, and what we should be billed on is the difference. But their system wasn’t reading the difference, it was just reading the end total. So, that means, we were being over-billed. It was never taking the difference,” said Garcia. 

The school district was also being billed for wastewater fees when there are actually septic tanks in place near the maintenance department and baseball field. The school district contracts a company to take care of the septic system, thus, not requriing a wastewater bill by the city.

One of Vela’s final discoveries included meters of different sizes being charged oppositely. A smaller meter was being charged as it was a larger meter and another large meter was being charged as a smaller meter. 

“Basically, what they were doing was they were billing you incorrectly. I did four cycles of billing. I actually calculated what it should have been on those two meters that they were making a mistake on. In just those four cycles, it’s over $10K. That’s not including the sewer charges that were also charged incorreclty. The sewer charge is based on the water consumption, so we’re talking about more than 10 thousand just in these four cycles, plus the sewer which was also over-charged,” said Vela. 

Vela will continue to look into the school district’s water billing to help find out exactly the amount of money that is owed to the district. 

 “Just based on these 4 billing cycles, we’re talking about a lot of money…So, let me take these billing invoices that Amanda has put together for me and calculate what the total is going to be. But, it’s going to be quite a bit of money…I’ve already asked for permission from my supervisor to do this. It’s at no cost to the district because we work under grants of the federal government and rural development and TCEQ. We also want to be sure the utilities are being fair with their customers and in this case this is something we have to resolve for you,” said Vela.

Communities Unlimited cannot provide the school district with litigation, however, they are able to help uncover the facts. Garcia was given two options by the school’s attorneys. One of those options includes working with the City of Poteet towards an agreement as far as accepting the credits they have to offer for the maintenance department, Little League field, and high school and where the district was over-charged at the elementary. 

On the other hand, there’s also the charges with the water meter at the elementary that wasn’t turned on that the district will be responsible for paying. The City of Poteet has been made aware of all the billing and water meter issues and should now be charging the school district correctly.

More information on this story will be made available as it develops. 

 

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