The Brazos River Authority Board of Directors at its quarterly meeting Monday unanimously approved a budget that kept its system rate the same as the previous year to help contract holders financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In light of the financial strain placed on cities and businesses across the Brazos River basin during this unprecedented time, the BRA cut its budget by 9% for fiscal year 2021. This, in turn, helps keep contract holders’ bills lower as well, said BRA Chief Financial Officer David Thompson. The move meant the system water and interruptible water rates paid by BRA contract holders will stay the same at $79 per acre-foot versus the previously planned increase. The plan did the same for the Agricultural Water Rate, keeping it at $55.30 per acre-foot.
The approved budget represents $71.6 million in total anticipated revenue and $68.2 million in operating expenses. The budget includes no provisions for employee raises.
The budget also includes $60.8 million in capital improvement projects, of which, almost $40 million is dedicated to the proposed Allens Creek Reservoirs’ construction near the city of Wallis in Austin County. The reservoir project is pending after the city of Houston filed suit against the state of Texas and the BRA following the Texas Legislature’s approval of a bill requiring the city of Houston to sell its stake in the proposed off-channel reservoir to the BRA.
The BRA starts its budget process in December and spends the next seven months preparing the data, Thompson said. The staff takes great pains to review expenses and historical data to make sure the best data is put together, he said.
This was the first all-virtual meeting for BRA’s Board of Directors. In order to continue to keep everyone safe and following the safety guidelines outline by Governor Greg Abbott, the Board and BRA staff met via Microsoft Teams. The Board meetings, which are quarterly on the last Monday of January, April, July and October, have always been streamed live on the BRA YouTube channel.
Efforts were made to ensure the public also had various ways to participate, said BRA General Manager/CEO David Collinsworth.
“We’ve really tried to work hard to make multiple avenues for folks to sit in and participate in our meeting,” Collinsworth said, also recognizing members of the Sunset Advisory Commission in attendance.
Also at the quarterly meeting, the Board:
• adopted the BRA’s strategic plan, which includes the mission statement, guiding principles, goals, objectives and strategies.
BRA Board Director Traci Garrett LaChance, of Danbury, said the BRA’s strategic plan is not just a strong message.
“In general, we have strategic plans, kind of as a compass to help us,” she said. “I would say if you want to think back the last five or six months, that we’re all working in uncertain times and in different ways. And my perception is that, (General Manager/CEO David Collinsworth,) you and your staff have done this impeccably. We’re still providing all the same services, the commitment to service, our continuous improvement, your people are all still working. I think that’s a very big accomplishment. It’s one thing to put a strategic plan on paper. It’s a big accomplishment if you can actually enact it and not just in normal terms.”
• approved up to $1.5 million for a new 130-ton crane for Possum Kingdom Lakes’ maintenance division. The purchase of a new and larger crane to replace the 50- and 100-ton cranes will provide greater latitude and operational flexibility while also saving time and providing a much safer work environment, said Michael McClendon, BRA upper basin regional manager.
• approved a one-year extension of the Clute-Richwood Regional Sewerage System agreement. The BRA has operated and maintained the Clute-Richwood Regional Sewerage System for the cities of Clute and Richwood since October 2000. The system is in the city of Clute in southern Brazoria County and is staffed with four BRA employees. The cities, which reimburses the BRA for operations, informed the BRA in June that they would like to extend the existing agreement by one year while they consider options for longer-term operations and maintenance, said Brad Brunett, Central and Lower Basin regional manager.
City leaders have expressed satisfaction and appreciation with the BRA, but after 20 years, they want to perform due diligence to consider a competitive selection process, Brunett said. “It’s not something that’s unusual,” Brunett said. “Many of our other wastewater customers have done similar things in the past.”
• authorized no more than $445,635 for a professional services agreement with Walker Partners, LLC, for engineering services. The agreement is for the design, purchase, and installation of a copper ion generator at the Williamson County Regional Raw Water Line intake structure on Lake Stillhouse Hollow in Bell County to deal with invasive zebra mussels
• approved an agreement with the cities of Georgetown and Round Rock to jointly pursue a water resource evaluation project to identify future water supply resources for the ever-growing Williamson County.
• authorized documents necessary to facilitate the Williamson County Regional Raw Water Line bond refunding, and
• approved agreements related to water resources investigations with the United States Geological Survey for up to 10 years for an amount not to exceed $3.5 million.
The next board meeting will be Oct. 26, 2020. To see a full list of board actions, go here.
To view the Fiscal Year 2020 Budget, click here.