Updated Nov. 21, 11:55 a.m.–
Directors for the Citrus Heights Water District voted unanimously in favor of raising rates and approving a new water shortage pricing structure Wednesday night, despite receiving 72 protest letters and hearing from a handful of residents who questioned the increase.
Under approvals made Wednesday, rates will rise three percent in 2015 and District directors will have discretion to raise rates 10 percent during a Stage 3 Water Warning, and up to 55 percent under the most extreme shortage stage. Additionally, directors can now increase excess water use rates by 50 percent during a Stage 4 Water Warning, with the option of a 250 percent increase during a situation exceeding Stage 5.
Ratepayer Dan Heideman acknowledged the need for some rise in rates, calling the three percent increase “no big deal” afterwards, but said he wanted to see some cost-cutting efforts from the District during a time when they’re asking ratepayers to pay more. He cited a current District office expansion and renovation project and the proposed 2015 water district budget increasing the general manager’s $166,964 salary up to $186,132 — although the budget also shows some positions taking double-digit pay cuts.
In a September mailer, the District said rate increases were needed to offset “financial deficit created by water shortage,” and also “help encourage customers to meet use reduction goals.” It also cited a recommendation from the District’s 2013 Water Rate Study which found a three percent rate increase each year through 2018 would be necessary “to prevent the need to issue debt to cover infrastructure maintenance and replacement.”
Public comment lasted about 45 minutes, with a sole resident advocating the Board pass the higher rates, while others questioned various aspects of water use and rate proposals.
“What more can we cut?” ratepayer Pam Pinkston asked District officials, saying she’d have to cut even more than she already has in order to avoid being hit with excess use charges. “I can let my grass die, but I can’t stop watering my fruit trees.”
<<Want to know what warning stage we’re in now, or how much water CHWD users have been conserving this year? See story: WATER: Citrus Heights usage drops 21% >>
District staff called the new water shortage rate structure a necessary “tool in the toolbox,” saying it’s a problem if they “don’t have a way to ration at the meter or the pocketbook.” They also clarified to directors that water shortage rates could be set lower, at the discretion of the Board, but not higher.
Although initially commenting the shortage rates sounded “a bit punitive,” Board President Allen Dains cast his vote in favor of the rate increases. He was joined by his colleague Director Caryl Sheehan, while recently re-elected Joseph Dion was absent from the meeting.
The three percent rate increase will go into effect January 1, 2015, but water shortage rates will not be implemented unless voted on by the board at a future date during a Stage 3 Water Warning level or higher.
On the Net:
Official notice and detailed list of rate increases proposed: http://chwd.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/2015-Prop-218-Notice-web.pdf