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Zimmerman Calls for Reimbursement for Overbilled Austin Water Customers

Austin City Council Member Don Zimmerman is calling on Austin Water to refund customers who believe they've been overbilled.

Austin City Council members say they continue to get calls from residents with abnormally high water bills, and now one Council member is now asking the city to pay.

Time and again the city has said these are not inaccurate meter readings. Austin Water customers used more than 5 million gallons of water in August – roughly half a million more than the same month last year. Council Member Don Zimmerman has a theory: Because the City has 50 meter readers for more than 240,000 customers, it may be possible the city had been estimating meter readings until the end of the summer. Then, he theorizes, they were able to complete many meter readings and therefore charge people usage to make up for low estimates.

“So now they had a catch-up bill,” Zimmerman says. “I call it a catch-up reading.”

And when you’ve got tiered pricing, that makes a dollar difference. The more you use, the more it costs per one thousand gallons. Zimmerman wants the City to reimburse anyone who saw at least double the water usage compared to the same month in 2014. A city spokesperson says asking to return money to such a large number of people is pretty unusual, but the topic of discussion, says Council Member Ann Kitchen, is not.

“It’s been a theme for this council to really understand the rates across all the utilities and how they’re impacting customers, and so I think that’s something we have to look at,” she says.

Council members will take up Zimmerman’s proposal at tomorrow’s Public Utilities Council Committee meeting.

Audrey McGlinchy is KUT's housing reporter. She focuses on affordable housing solutions, renters’ rights and the battles over zoning. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @AKMcGlinchy.
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