SAN ANTONIO -

San Antonio Water System officials went before the San Antonio City Council Wednesday to explain why the utility needs to raise rates by 5.1 percent in 2014.

The increase would add approximately $2.60 to the average residential bill.

Utility officials said the rate increase is much lower than what their original proposal was going to be.

“We've been able to reduce this rate request by 60 percent, from 13.5 percent down to 5.1 percent,” said SAWS Vice President of Public Affairs Greg Flores. “We're trying to serve our customers at the highest level possible at the lowest cost possible.”

SAWS officials said they’ve cut approximately $10 million from the utility’s budget.

City council members said before they approve the rate increase they want to make sure the utility has cut its own budget.

“We don't want to have a rate request No. 1 and a rate request No. 2, we want to have as many efficiencies built into the budget as possible,” said District 8 Councilman Ron Nirenberg.

“There's always a little wiggle room so hopefully we can have some influence and really look for the best solution for the city,” said District 5 Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales.

Some of the efficiencies include the elimination of 41 positions, a 200-vehicle fleet reduction and a decrease in chemical spending.

“There's a potential $8.3 million annual savings starting in 2015,” said CEO Robert Puente. “Some of those savings we've already implemented and they're already baked into the 2014 request.”

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