City water rates to rise 9% Feb. 16: First new bill to arrive May 10, 2013

By From page A1 | November 16, 2012

New city water rates will go into effect in Feb. 16, 2013, and will show up on the May bills. At Tuesday’s Placerville City Council meeting, a 9 percent rate hike was unanimously approved  to help offset the increased cost of water provided by El Dorado Irrigation District.

Current bimonthly single-family residential rates will rise from a base rate of $24.38 to $26.57, while single-family residential on Lifeline will go from $18.29 bimonthly to $19.94. Rates per cubic foot are tiered and the increase depends on the consumption of water. The current bimonthly water charge for a single-family residence with median consumption is $75.26. The new rate at the same consumption level would add $6.73 every two months making the bill $81.99

“These are almost the identical rates that were supposed to become effective in October 2009,” said Finance Director Dave Warren.

New water rates were adopted in 2009 by the City Council, with the first increase effective Oct. 16, 2009, and subsequent increases were scheduled for June 2010, June 2011 and June 2012. Public opinion and the effects of the economy caused the suspension of the 13.5 percent rate increase scheduled for June 2010 and subsequent increases. New alternative rate tiers were adopted by City Council in May 2010.

Operating costs have steadily risen since 2010, including a recent increase of  the water rates the city pays to El Dorado Irrigation District. The multi-year increase became effective July 2012 and includes rate increases each year through 2015.The estimated cost of EID’s rate increase for 2012-2013 is $95,793 and cost for 2013-2014 is estimated at an increase of $141,941.

In an effort to off-set the increased operating costs the city froze unfilled employee positions, continued the 10 percent employee pay cut, reduced contingency fund levels, and deferred some water line replacement projects in addition to cutting capital improvement and operating expenditures.

City staff recommended a 9 percent increase in water rates, effective Feb. 16, 2013, to help offset the increased cost of purchasing water from EID. The increase would generate approximately $56,647 in fiscal year 2012-2013 and $153,178 in 2013-2014 in additional revenue.

“If not for Measure H, the proposed increase would be even higher,”said Warren.

Measure H funds, which come from a quarter percentage sales tax increase, have been used to offset water and sewer bills by 10 percent, allot $425,000 for the Pardi Way-Big Cut Road line replacement and $208,000 for other water line replacement projects, said Warren.

“We have discussed the proposed rate increase with the Measure H committee and we agreed that the rates would have to go up, but we wanted to do it incrementally, not in one big swoop that would be painful for ratepayers.”

“We met with EID for about six months and discussed the impact of the rate increase with them,” said Councilman Carl Hagen. “Some people in El Dorado Hills and Cameron Park think we should be paying the same wholesale water rates they do, but we read our own meters and do our own maintenance. EID just provides the water, so that’s why our rates are less.”

Sue Rodman, member of the Measure H committee, said, “We are trying to repair and replace pipes that are in bad shape, so the city rate increase will help.”

“Originally, EID wanted a much higher rate increase, but the city was able to negotiate a lower one,” said Mayor Mark Acuna. “We have an aging water system and we must remain diligent in repairing it.”

“We’re learning from our mistakes in the past,” said Vice Mayor Wendy Mattson. “I’m grateful that we are keeping up with our capital improvement projects.”

The city is also authorized to adjust the rates annually according to the annual change in the California Consumer Price Index. City ratepayers will receive notification of the rate increase in January and March water bills. The increase will show up on the May 10 utility bill.

Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.

Wendy Schultz

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