Texas town shuts off water to school district in dispute

Children in a south Texas school district are caught in the crossfire between a city and its school district in a water fight.

On Monday, the children of the La Villa, Texas school system were due to return from their winter vacation.

But there’s a problem: the tiny city – population 1,957 – has shut off the district’s water supply, saying the school system needs to pay its bill.

Now, the district is ready to take the city to court over the fees – for water that is of such poor quality that the school system spends nearly $3,000 annually to give their students bottled H20.
The dispute began over a year ago, when La Villa began charging the district a $14 per-student surcharge for water usage, a mere two months after charging them a $6 surcharge. For months, the school system refused to pay, leading the city to shut off the spigot a few days before Christmas.

The district, led by Superintendent Narciso Garcia, believes the increase – which he claims would cost the school system up to $28,000 a month – is “unethical and expensive.”

“That money has been allocated by the state of Texas for our children’s education,” Garcia told FoxNews.com on Thursday. “We can’t just go off and spend it on things not related to education, like bailing out La Villa.”

But the cash-strapped city, which was ordered by the state a year ago to make $1 million worth of repairs to the city’s water infrastructure, insists the school pay up, ValleyCentral.com reported.

The city, in turn, raised rates for all its customers, said its manager, Wilfredo Mata.

“There’s a balance due, and they’re going to have to pay for the services,” Mata, told the Brownsville Herald last month.

Mata did not return messages from FoxNews.com seeking comment.

The district filed an injunction with the state last month, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which could require the city to turn the water back on, has scheduled a hearing on the matter for Wednesday, Garcia said.

In the meantime, the students’ vacation will be extended for at least a few days until the commission rules. The students will make up the missed classes either at the end of the year or during one of their upcoming vacations, and if the commission rules against the district, the school board will have to decide whether to pay up or continue the legal fight.