Paso Robles residents could see an increase in sewer rates due in part to the Templeton Community Services District no longer needing the city’s wastewater treatment services.
At the Feb. 2 Paso Robles City Council meeting, the council directed staff to bring back rate proposal options to the Feb. 16 meeting that could help close the sewer fund’s current deficit.
Paso provides wastewater collection, treatment, and disposal for nearly every home, business, and institution within city limits. According to a staff report, the wastewater system includes 126 miles of sewers, 14 sewage lift stations, and a treatment plant with a 4.9 million gallon-a-day capacity.
Sewer rates, which are the system’s main source of revenue, haven’t been adjusted since 2016, when the city paid for a comprehensive upgrade to the wastewater treatment plant. Updating the wastewater plant enabled the city to comply with stringent requirements for disposal to the Salinas River and prepared the city for future recycled water.
In 2019, the Templeton Community Services District completed its own sewer plant, discontinuing its need for Paso’s treatment and disposal services. As a result, Paso’s sewer fund revenue decreased by approximately $70,000 per year.
A recently completed study analyzing the condition of the city’s sewer fund found that the fund had been depleted due to Templeton no longer needing services and no rate increase for four years. In the 2019-20 fiscal year, total revenue was $9.8 million and expenses were $13.3 million, resulting in a $3.4 million loss.
The study concludes that in order to pay for the sewer fund’s existing debt obligations, adequately fund the repair and replacement, and replenish fund reserves, sewer revenues initially need to increase by 24 percent. Then in each of the following years, sewer rates would need to increase by 8 percent.
At the Feb. 2 meeting, Councilmember Maria Garcia said that a fixed rate increase would be more helpful for people in managing their budgets in the long-term. However, she added that she understands this is a difficult time to present residents with a potential increase. ∆