The third-party manager of Jackson’s water system introduced a proposed new tiered billing system on Friday that would raise rates for most in the city and reduce bills for low-income residents.
The change comes after months of Ted Henifin, the head of JXN Water and the federally-appointed manager of the system, saying that the future of the city’s infrastructure largely relies on creating a steady funding stream from Jackson’s ratepayers.
“We’re all in this together, that’s really the message,” he said at a press conference. “There will be some people who see their bills go up, there will be some people who see their bills go down. At the end of the day, we need to pay for water. It’s valuable.”
The city has struggled for years to bill its residents for water, an issue that dates back to a failed contract with Siemens that Jackson entered into in 2010. The collection rate for the city’s water bills hovers around 60%.
The new system, which would begin at the start of 2024, would increase the water and sewer bills for all customers, except for the 12,875 of those who are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Most customers, according to a breakdown JXN Water provided, would see a monthly increase of about $10, or 13%, on their combined water and sewer bill. Most SNAP recipients would see their bills drop about $20, or 31%.
Henifin said the new tier separating SNAP recipients would be the first of its kind in the country for a water bill structure. About one in four of the city’s water customers fall into that category.
JXN Water said the plan will go before the Jackson’s City Council this month for approval. But, with the authority granted by a federal court last year, JXN Water can implement the plan even if the council votes against it. Henifin said he has yet to show the plan to city officials, but did meet with Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann to avoid another push back from the Legislature.
Henifin’s first choice, which he proposed earlier in the year, was a property value-based rate structure. Henifin argued that moving away from water meters would help earn the trust of residents, who have had to deal with faulty and inconsistent billing for the last decade. But state lawmakers quickly fought the idea, passing a statute last session that requires consumption-based billing.
In hopes of getting customers current on their bills, JXN Water sent out a notice in September reminding them to pay their balances or reach out for assistance. Henifin, who warned that JXN Water would soon shut off connections to homes not paying their bills, said they’ll wait until after the holidays before disconnecting any residents. He added that there may be as many as 5,000 properties getting water without an account, and that JXN Water will be less lenient with them.
Click here to read the full breakdown of JXN Water’s billing proposal on its website.
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