The last time San Luis Obispo County tried to raise Santa Margarita residents' water rates, residents successfully protested the increase. This time, residents barely whispered.
"Here we are again," Will Clemens, who takes care of finances for the Public Works Department, told the SLO County Board of Supervisors at its meeting on Dec. 15. "Three months to the day."
On that September day, Santa Margarita residents filed 252 protest slips against the proposed increase. That's one more than the 50 percent plus one of the property owners needed to file protest slips. The process to raise rates then started again because the county didn't have a choice.
Residents had conserved so much water that revenue was less than what was necessary to pay for the infrastructure.
As Board of Supervisors Chair Debbie Arnold said at the Dec. 15 meeting: "This one's been hard because it's counterintuitive. You save water and your rates increase."
The county only received 10 protest slips from Santa Margarita parcel owners for this go round, and it was a quick decision for supervisors, who voted 5-0 to go ahead with the increase. Residents will see the increase on the first bill of the new year: a $69.74 base rate plus $3.10 per unit of water used.