Two Dallas churches were overcharged for water

FOX 4 has discovered that the City of Dallas is overcharging some churches for their storm water management fees.

We asked the city about the problems with fee formula.

To see if your church is being overcharged, all you need to do is look at your church’s land. If it’s less than 80 percent concrete, then you’re probably being overcharged.

Carol Bell-Walton has attended Ridgewood Park United Methodist in east Dallas with her family for years.

While overseeing the church's utility bills, another member questioned the church's monthly $250 storm water management fee, so they dug deeper.

It turns out Dallas Stormwater Management assumes that 80 percent of a church's land is concrete. More concrete means more runoff and a higher bill.

“It became clear the one-size-fits-all billing wasn't appropriate for this church,” said Bell-Walton.

Bell-Walton appealed her church's bill.

“It took about seven months to get the bill adjusted,” she said.

Turns out, Bell-Walton's church had been overbilled $104 every month for years.

“We were only reimbursed from the day they got caught,” said Bell-Walton.

The church received a nearly $1,000 refund.

“That's the word we're trying to get out is that churches can save money,” said Bell-Walton.

Bell-Walton noticed another church just down the street from hers, on Lover's Lane, also had a lot of land for an athletic field.

“We really appreciate it,” said Jerry Knippa, the business manager at Zion Lutheran Church.

Knippa called the city about his church's bill.

“I had to make about a half a dozen phone calls and finally wrote a letter,” he said. “And the letter worked.”

Zion’s storm water fee dropped from $425 to $295 a month; a $1,500-a-year savings.

FOX 4 asked east Dallas City Councilmember Mark Clayton if the council knew about this issue.

“I'm really appreciative of Ms. Walton discovering, look, you have to be vigilant,” said Clayton.

He said that the council will be looking at this very issue this fall. However, until there are changes, “You've got to jump through a few hoops, but for $130 a month, it's certainly worth it,” said Knippa.

Zion Lutheran did not receive a refund, but Clayton says if a church has been overbilled, they are entitled to a refund in addition to a bill reduction.