T or C’s water rate increase is over 5 percent

by Kathleen Sloan | October 1, 2021
4 min read
water drop graphic
Source: freepik.com

Truth or Consequences water rates went up 5.4 percent in September, an automatic yearly increase tied to the Consumer Price Index.

The Consumer Price Index, set annually by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics just before the federal fiscal year starts on Oct. 1, stated on Sept. 14 that the CPI is 5.3 percent. City Manager Bruce Swingle based T or C’s water rate increase on the CPI’s 10-month average through July, which was one tenth of a percentage point higher.  

Next year, the CPI’s 12-month average will be used to determine the annual water rate increase, T or C Utility Office Manager Sonya Williams told the Sun in a Sept. 30 email.

The automatic yearly increase and the use of the CPI to calculate it are provisions of T or C Ordinance 712, adopted by the city commission in February 2020. In addition to these conditions, the ordinance imposed an immediate water rate increase of nearly 50 percent.

That increase was a prerequisite of the city’s receipt of a nearly $10 million grant/loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Development Block Grant program. The grant/loan will pay for both the replacement of about 11,000 feet of water lines downtown and upgrades to the Cook Street Station chlorination plant. The project, which is still in the design phase, is expected to begin after the first of the year.  

Three of T or C’s four city-operated utilities now levy automatic annual rate increases. Only electric utility rates do not go up like clockwork each year. The city commission instituted a 5 percent annual increase in wastewater fees in 2018, again because it was a prerequisite for obtaining a $7 million grant loan from the USDA to upgrade the city’s sewer system. A 5 percent annual increase in solid waste fees was approved by the city commission some years ago.


breakdown of household daily water use
The average American family uses more than 300 gallons of water per day at home. Roughly 70 percent of this use occurs indoors. Source: epa.gov/watersense

To give readers an idea of how T or C’s water rates stack up with those charged by comparable cities, the Sun sought that data from New Mexico towns that are about the size as T or C and are similarly located far from a larger municipality.

Our pool included Aztec, Raton, Taos and Tucumcari. None of those cities publishes its water rates on its website. Taos said the Sun would be required to submit an Inspection of Public Records Act request in order to obtain its rates, delaying for possibly as many as 15 days the publication of this article. Aztec did not respond to the Sun’s request for information. Tucumcari provided its residential rates over the phone, but did not follow through on a promise to email the commercial rates by press time.

As it turns out, T or C’s monthly water rates are lower than Tucumcari’s and Raton’s. Let’s say that that the average American family of four uses around 10,500 gallons of water in a 30-day period, the estimate provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in the “Watersense” section of its website. Using that measure of consumption, the total monthly water bill for an average family of four would run $32.50 in T or C, $39.34 in Raton and $61.47 in Tucumcari.


The base fee charged the city’s water utility customers prior to the passage of Ordinance 712 was $8.15 a month. The rate hike that went into effect in July 2020 increased the base fee to $15.50 a month, covering consumption of up to 2,000 gallons.

T or C’s current water rates, effective with the September billing, are:

Residential and Commercial
$16.34 base fee, covering consumption of up to 2,000 gallons
2,001 to 7,000 gallons: $2.86 per 1,000 gallons (up from $2.71)
7,001 to 15,000 gallons: $3.24 per 1,000 gallons (up from $3.07)
15,001 to 29,000 gallons: $3.64 per 1,000 gallons (up from $3.45)
29,001 to 50,000 gallons: $4.09 per 1,000 gallons (up from $3.88)
Over 50,000 gallons: $4.56 per 1,000 gallons (up from $4.33)


$22.19 base fee, which includes tax and consumption of up to 2,000 gallons
2,001 to 6,000 gallons: $4.51 per 1,000 gallons
6,001 to 10,000 gallons: $4.61 per 1,000 gallons
10,001 to 20,000 gallons: $4.72 per 1,000 gallons
20,001 to 50,000 gallons: $4.85 per 1,000 gallons
50,001 gallons and above: $4.95 per 1,000 gallons


“Municipal residential”
$13.75 per meter
0 to 25,000 gallons: $2.438 per 1,000 gallons
25,001 gallons and above: $2.841 per 1,000 gallons

“Rural residential and agriculture”
$14.55 per meter
0 to 25,000 gallons: $4.50 per 1,000 gallons
25,001 gallons and above: $4.904 per 1,000 gallons

“Urban commercial”
$15.85 per meter
$3.32 per 1,000 gallons

“Urban commercial/multi-dwelling”
$15.85 per meter
$8.75 per unit
$3.32 per 1,000 gallons

“Rural commercial”
$15.85 per meter
$4.893 per 1,000 gallons

“Rural commercial/multi-dwelling
$15.85 per meter
$8.75 per unit
$4.893 per 1,000 gallons

Kathleen Sloan is the Sun’s founder and chief reporter. She can be reached at kathleen.sloan@gmail.com or 575-297-4146.
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Understanding New Mexico's proposed new social studies standards for K-12 students

“The primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.”
—National Council for the Social Studies 

Reader Michael L. Hayes of Las Cruces commented: What impresses me is that both the proposed standards and some of the criticisms of them are equally grotesque. I make this bold statement on the basis of my experience as a peripatetic high school and college English teacher for 45 years in many states with many students differing in race, religion, gender and socioeconomic background, and as a civic activist (PTA) in public education (My career, however, was as an independent consultant mainly in defense, energy and the environment.)

The proposed social studies standards are conceptually and instructionally flawed. For starters, a “performance standard” is not a standard at all; it is a task. Asking someone to explain something is not unlike asking someone to water the lawn. Nothing measures the performance, but without a measure, there is no standard. The teacher’s subjective judgment will be all that matters, and almost anything will count as satisfying a “performance standard,” even just trying. Students will be left to wonder “what is on the teacher’s mind?” or “have I sucked up enough.”

Four other quick criticisms of the performance standards. One, they are nearly unintelligible because they are written in jargon. PED’s use of jargon in a document intended for the public is worrisome. Bureaucrats often use jargon to confuse or conceal something uninformed, wrong or unworthy. As a result, most parents, some school board members and more than a few teachers do not understand them.

Two, the performance standards are so vague that they fail to define the education which teachers are supposed to teach, students are supposed to learn, and parents are supposed to understand. PED does not define words like “explain” or “describe” so that teachers can apply “standards” consistently and fairly. The standards do not indicate what teachers are supposed to know in order to teach or specify what students are supposed to learn. Supervisors cannot know whether teachers are teaching social studies well or poorly. The standards are so vague that the public, especially parents or guardians, cannot know the content of public education.

Three, many performance standards are simply unrealistic, especially at grade level. Under “Ethnic, Cultural and Identity Performance Standards”; then under “Diversity and Identity”; then under “Kindergarten,” one such standard is: “Identify how their family does things both the same as and different from how other people do things.” Do six-year-olds know how other people do things? Do they know whether these things are relevant to diversity and identity? Or another standard: “Describe their family history, culture, and past to current contributions of people in their main identity groups.” (A proficient writer would have hyphenated the compound adjective to avoid confusing the reader.) Do six-year-olds know so much about these things in relation to their “identity group”? Since teachers obviously do not teach them about these other people and have not taught them about these groups, why are these and similar items in the curriculum; or do teachers assign them to go home and collect this information?

Point four follows from “three”; some information relevant to some performance measures requires a disclosure of personal or family matters. The younger the students, the easier it is for teachers to invade their privacy and not only their privacy, but also the privacy of their parents or guardians, or neighbors, who may never be aware of these disclosures or not become aware of them until afterward. PED has no right to design a curriculum which requires teachers to ask students for information about themselves, parents or guardians, or neighbors, or puts teachers on the spot if the disclosures reveal criminal conduct. (Bill says Jeff’s father plays games in bed with his daughter. Lila says Angelo’s mother gives herself shots in the arm.) Since teacher-student communications have no legal protection to ensure privacy, those disclosures may become public accidentally or deliberately. The effect of these proposal standards is to turn New Mexico schools and teachers into investigative agents of the state and students into little informants or spies.

This PED proposal for social studies standards is a travesty of education despite its appeals to purportedly enlightened principles. It constitutes a clear and present danger to individual liberty and civil liberties. It should be repudiated; its development, investigated; its PED perpetrators, dismissed. No state curriculum should encourage or require the disclosure of private personal information.

I am equally outraged by the comments of some of T or C’s school board members: Christine LaFont and Julianne Stroup, two white Christian women, who belong to one of the larger minorities in America and assume white and Christian privileges. In different terms but for essentially the same reason, both oppose an education which includes lessons about historical events and trends, and social movements and developments, of other minorities. They object to the proposal for the new social studies standards because of its emphasis on individual and group identities not white or Christian. I am not going to reply with specific objections; they are too numerous and too pointed.

Ms. LaFont urges: “It’s better to address what’s similar with all Americans. It’s not good to differentiate.” Ms. Stroup adds: “Our country is not a racist country. We have to teach to respect each other. We have civil rights laws that protect everyone from discrimination. We need to teach civics, love and respect. We need to teach how to be color blind.”

Their desires for unity and homogeneity, and for mutual respect, are a contradiction and an impossibility. Aside from a shared citizenship, which implies acceptance of the Constitution, the rule of law and equality under the law, little else defines Americans. We are additionally defined by our race, religion, national origin, etc. So mutual respect requires individuals to respect others different from themselves. Disrespect desires blacks, Jews or Palestinians to assimilate or to suppress or conceal racial, religious or national origin aspects of their identity. The only people who want erasure of nonwhite, non-Christian, non-American origin aspects of identity are bigots. Ms. LaFont and Ms. Stroud want standards which, by stressing similarities and eliding differences, desire the erasure of such aspects. What they want will result in a social studies curriculum that enables white, Christian, native-born children to grow up to be bigots and all others to be their victims. This would be the academic equivalent of ethnic cleansing.


This postmortem of a case involving a 75-year-old women who went missing from her home in Hillsboro last September sheds light on the bounds of law enforcement’s capacity to respond, especially in large rural jurisdictions such as Sierra County, and underscores the critical role the public, as well as concerned family and friends, can play in assisting a missing person’s search.

Reader Jane Debrott of Hillsboro commented: Thank you for your article on the tragic loss of Betsey. I am a resident of Hillsboro, a friend of Rick and Betsey, and a member of H.E.L.P. The thing that most distresses me now, is the emphasis on Rick’s mis-naming of the color of their car. I fear that this fact will cause Rick to feel that if he had only gotten the facts right, Betsey may have been rescued before it was too late. The incident was a series of unavoidable events, out of everyone’s control, and we will never know what place the correct color of her car may have had in the outcome. It breaks my heart to think that Rick has had one more thing added to his “what ifs” concerning this incident.

Diana Tittle responded: Dear Jane, the Sun undertook this investigation at the request of a Hillsboro resident concerned about the town’s inability to mount a prompt, coordinated response to the disappearance of a neighbor. From the beginning, I shared your concern about how our findings might affect Betsy’s family and friends. After I completed my research and began writing, I weighed each detail I eventually chose to include against my desire to cause no pain and the public’s right to know about the strengths and limitations of law enforcement’s response and the public’s need to know about how to be of meaningful assistance.

There was information I withheld about the state police investigation and the recovery. But I decided to include the issue of the car’s color because the individuals who spotted Betsy’s car emphasized how its color had been key to their identification of it as the vehicle described in Betsy’s Silver Alert. Because the misinformation was corrected within a couple of hours, I also included in this story the following editorial comment meant to put the error in perspective: “The fact that law enforcement throughout the state was on the lookout in the crucial early hours after Betsy’s disappearance for an elderly woman driving a “light blue” instead of a “silver” Accord would, in retrospect, likely not have changed the outcome of the search” [emphasis added].

I would also point to the story’s overarching conclusion about the inadvisability of assigning blame for what happened: “In this case, a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances, many of them beyond human control, hindered the search that it would fall to Hamilton’s department to lead.”

It is my hope that any pain caused by my reporting will eventually be outweighed by its contribution to a better community understanding of what it will take in the future to mount a successful missing person’s search in rural Sierra County.


City’s water rates must go up to get $9.4 million loan/grant
by Kathleen Sloan | January 23, 2020

​Water rates will have to go up 35 percent or more if the City of Truth or Consequences wants to keep a $9.4-million loan-grant from…

Half the pipe replacement downtown as new estimates come in on $9.4-million water project, while water rates still expected to increase 56 percent to 79 percent in April
by Kathleen Sloan | February 22, 2020

​Over the last month, while the Truth or Consequences City Commission gears up to pass a massive water- rate increase to pay for a $9.4-million…

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