How Much Debt Is Too Much?

Over half of the $23.38 million in bonds approved in 2016 for Water and Wastewater Improvements did not go toward new water or sewer lines.  It was devoted to a contract with Siemens for new water meters and improvements to the wastewater treatment plant.

According to our longtime Public Works director, who retired prior to this bond issue, the wastewater plant was in working order and in compliance with the TCEQ.   However Council approved $8 million in renovations for the plant.  Complete water meter replacement was based on tests on 70 water meters that showed ‘low flow’ was under-reported.

Meanwhile our city engineer, James  Andrews,  has stated there’s still 75,000 feet of old water lines to be replaced, at an approximate cost of $12.5 million, and the City is out of bond funds for this project.

FYI: About $4.5 million of the 2016 bond issue was spent on new water meters. The cost will be much higher over the life of that $4.5 million of debt.  West U installed about a thousand fewer water meters a few years ago for less than $2 million, paid in cash from their capital reserves.

A number of water line leaks within a few feet of the new meters have occurred in the Bellaire installations, creating additional costs when plumbers or City crews are called out to make repairs.

Another $8 million of bond funds went for the wastewater plant and system, all part of the $12.8 million Siemens contract.  Why are more wastewater projects planned in the next bond issue?  Let’s see a list of future required repairs or replacements and estimated costs.

How much debt is too much? We’ll pay over $9 million in debt service this year, with little hope of building up any capital reserves.  Another $47 million dollar bond issue for the Fall of 2019 is being discussed.  Interest rates are on the rise.  More debt will only drive the City into a deeper hole.  All backed by taxpayers.  What’s the tipping point?

Find more  financial information here:

Find more information on the bond planning session here:

Email your thoughts or opinions to the Mayor and members of City Council in care of our City Clerk, Tracy Dutton, at

About Jane McNeel

Bellaire resident since 1956. Email: Find more information on 'About This Site' in the main menu.
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