Austin's high water bill complaints date back to years ago

Fran Werner and her husband have lived in West Austin for the last 25 years.

Water bills have always been predictable.

“They're almost always between $13 and $16,” said Werner.

Their bills remained the same up until late summer early fall 2015.

“I believe it was our August bill that went up from $13 to $200 and something. Then our September bill went up to $300 and something. We don’t have a sprinkler system, we don't have a swimming pool, there are just the two of us living here,” said Werner.

The city says the bills at that time were accurate.

“We had one of the driest Augusts on record followed by one of greenest wettest Mays on record and this city used a near record of water. That was reflected in august water bills and September,” said Robert Cullick, spokesperson for Austin Energy.

However, Werner fought, and ended up getting 50 percent of her money credited to their account. She feels more should've been done. “The city said ok we will give you back half the money you overpaid which was better than not getting any of it back, but if they are going to admit fault, why not give us back everything?” said Werner.

Since then, Werner says her bills have returned to normal.

Except for the most recent billing period, when her bill went back up again to roughly $35.

“I got a bill and the bill gave me a $23 credit, which is what I thought the overage was. There was no explanation,” said Werner.

We checked in with others who complained of the same issue. Lisa Rose says she never got any money back after her bill went up hundreds of dollars in 2015.

Fast forward to 2017, the city admitted they got bills wrong during the August/September 2017 cycle. “There was a pattern that showed higher use in September than August. But we don’t know exactly how we got to that situation,” said Cullick.

Austin Energy who operates the city’s utilities says 7,400 customers can expect billing credits to be issued by this spring, because of the latest errors

O.T. Greer is one of those customers who had an outrageous bill last fall. He normally pays around $21 a month, but paid $214 in September. “We kept getting calls from the city saying have we checked for leaks. I said I don't have no leak,” said Greer,

After the city’s apology, Greer feels a little better.

“I was glad to see they came out and admitted it was their problem and they apologized. That's what I suggested they do a long time ago,” said Greer.

Greer says he did get a $39 bill credit in January.

It’s possible he may be notified about another one in the coming weeks

“I’m not concerned about the money. It's the principal,” said Greer.

“Every month I see the bill come in and think, ‘now what.’ So I really can't trust them,’” said Werner.

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