SLO approves conservation-punishing water rate hike

June 13, 2013

water2By JOSH FRIEDMAN

The San Luis Obispo City Council approved sewer rate increases Tuesday night, as well as restructured water rates that will hit hardest those who conserve the most.

The council voted 3-1 in favor of both the sewer and water rate increases, with Councilman Dan Carpenter dissenting on each. The 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 increases will mark the eight and ninth consecutive years of water rates hikes for the city.

Beginning next month, the average monthly sewer bill for residences, which is slightly more than the average water bill, will increase $2.28, followed by another $1.73 increase in July 2014. The average residence will pay $58.85 per month for their sewage in 2013-2014 and $60.58 in 2014-2015.

Water bills will increase at sharper rates for most residents, in particular those who are conservation-minded, even though the city encourages water conservation.

Conservers of water who use a little less than the city residential average will pay nearly $80 more in the upcoming fiscal year than they will have paid in the current year. In 2014-2015, they will pay more than $100 more for their total water consumption than they do currently.

The new water rate structure will raise monthly bills for most residential and commercial properties in the city for the next two fiscal years. The new structure will eliminate a low rate for users who conserve water and add a fixed charge of $5 a month for all city customers, regardless of their consumption amount.

So long as the council adopts its 2013-2015 by the end of June, the first rate hike will take effect next month. The second rate increase will take effect on July 1, 2014.

When the new structure takes effect, water rates will increase for all users, except for those who consume slightly above the city average and for residences that consume four times or more than the city average.

Despite the city’s insistence that residents should conserve water, those who use the least will face the sharpest increases and those who consume the most will realize the most savings. All water conservers who currently pay the rate the council has eliminated will face increases of at least 21 percent beginning next month. Residential water consumers who use the most will save at least 14 percent beginning next month.

All rates, however, will increase on July 1, 2014. The fixed monthly charge will also increase then from $5 to $5.28.

Due to the passage of California Proposition 218 in 1996, a majority of San Luis Obispo utility customers could have upstaged the sewer and water rate hikes by submitting written protests. A majority protest required more than 7,000 written objections from customers, yet by the beginning of the hearings Wednesday, the city only received 60 valid sewer rate protests and 181 valid water rate protests.

Several residents and business owners also spoke against the increases during public comment. None of the speakers during public comment supported the rate hikes.

Carpenter said he opposed both of the rate increases because utility department expenses, particularly staffing costs, have climbed too high.

Councilwoman Kathy Smith said she felt the pain of the ratepayers, but the city needed the rate increase to remain efficient and business-like.

Mayor Jan Marx said the water rate increase would keep the city secure in the case of a drought.

Councilman John Ashbaugh said he opposed the conservation-penalizing structure of the water rates but, too, voted for the increase. Ashbaugh said residents must pay for the quality of water they receive in San Luis Obispo.

“Right now I’m drinking San Luis Obispo tap water, and I drink it all the time,” Ashbaugh said.

Former mayoral candidate Steve Barasch suggested that the city sell water it pipes in but does not use in order to help cover costs. Marx said doing so would encourage urban sprawl and would conflict with smart growth principles.

The city is currently paying $4.7 million annually in debt payments for the Nacimiento pipeline and is only in the second year of a 30-year obligation. A $63.2 million upgrade to the city water reclamation facility is also scheduled to occur in the next five years.

 


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40 Comments

  1. Rambunctious says:

    I wonder if the good people of SLO can hear all that State water running through the pipeline at night…

    (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  2. Prop 218 Challenges are almost impossible to achieve. However, voting the current council members out of office, who either don’t listen or don’t care about the finances of the residents of SLO, is much more “doeable” and a whole lot cheeper to achieve! Letting the current city manager go, although somewhat expensive, due to the $ 275,000 buyout provision in her contract, is also acheivable and less expensive that the pension liability that will be given to her after a five years of city employment.

    The “buck” has got to start somewhere!!

    (7) 7 Total Votes - 7 up - 0 down
    • kettle says:

      That is a great and fiscally sound idea.

      So initiative or campaign platform?

      The clock is ticking.

      (-2) 2 Total Votes - 0 up - 2 down
  3. slojustice says:

    I’ve got an idea. Maybe the middle class can have the homeless people urinate on their landscaping and Dee Torres and Adam can be the middle men and handle the money.

    (3) 5 Total Votes - 4 up - 1 down
  4. slojustice says:

    These “social engineers” or council people expect the little guy to live in the apartments above the businesses and ride their bikes to work for one of the restaurant chains. At least city attorney can afford to live in a house.

    (4) 4 Total Votes - 4 up - 0 down
  5. hotdog says:

    While north county is running out of water we are wasting it by government edict. And the rich get a discount. Ripped off by the council again.

    (5) 7 Total Votes - 6 up - 1 down
  6. hijinks says:

    “Councilwoman Kathy Smith said she felt the pain of the ratepayers, but the city needed the rate increase to remain efficient and business-like.”

    Sounds like the same rationale the banks used for messing over people with subprime mortgages: efficient, business-like, and thoroughly roughless. God save us from such idiocy.

    (8) 8 Total Votes - 8 up - 0 down
  7. mkaney says:

    For those who missed it. over 5,000 of LA DWP’s 10,000 employees make 100,000+ a year. And that’s where this is going to. http://salaries.latimes.com/dwp/

    (14) 18 Total Votes - 16 up - 2 down
    • Robert1 says:

      Who says crime does not pay? Imagine the retirement ripoff these people are going to get from retirement plans.

      (5) 7 Total Votes - 6 up - 1 down
    • SLOBIRD says:

      Also, the City of LA has been upping the rates and then loaning it to the general fund to help with the budget, mostly for the schools, It’s a mess!

      (4) 6 Total Votes - 5 up - 1 down
    • hijinks says:

      Huh? The link you provide doesn’t say that. It says their average pay is more than 50% higher than other LA city employees. Where’s the “over 5000” making over 100k come from? Just curious.

      (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
      • mkaney says:

        If you do a search, and you include only employees with compensation of over 100k, it returns over 5,000 records.

        (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
  8. SLOBIRD says:

    Jan Marx says a rate increase will keep the City secure in case of a drought. Really, please explain as this makes absolutely no sense. My paying more for less is not going to provide more water in a drought which we already have. You and staff are all misfits and we are not drinking the kool aide any more. You want the money and will continue to increase the rate so people pay more for less therefore providing more water for new users to pay more for less. Vote these people out of office, every single one of them!

    (18) 18 Total Votes - 18 up - 0 down
    • easymoney says:

      Follow the money…
      The bar for water requirements in this county is changing daily or hourly, depending on how much staff needs…

      (9) 9 Total Votes - 9 up - 0 down
    • r0y says:

      You actually listened to Marx? You’re braver than I thought! I cannot stand to hear her stumble through whatever she’s trying to remember she has to say for more than 10 seconds. It’s worse than Bush ever was. Gah! And this person is put in charge? No wonder things are falling apart, if she’s the best among us.

      (4) 6 Total Votes - 5 up - 1 down
      • easymoney says:

        No sir, I will not actually listen to these politicians speak, especially the uberliberals…

        (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
  9. obispan says:

    Kathy Smith sez residential ratepayers need to pay more so SLO is more “business-like”, = subsidizing business and development.

    (17) 21 Total Votes - 19 up - 2 down

Comments are closed.