The San Luis Obispo City Council voted to increase water rates and sewer rates at its June 16 meeting. City revenues from water were $1 million less than anticipated, as SLO residents conserved water. To cover the shortfall and cost of ongoing maintenance, councilmembers voted 4-1 to increase those rates over the next two years, with Councilman Dan Carpenter dissenting. The increased rates will go into effect July 1.
The city expected revenue to dip a little after Gov. Jerry Brown asked Californians to voluntarily curb use by 20 percent in 2014. According to a staff report, San Luis Obispo was mandated to use an additional 12 percent less. The cost of water treatment, delivery, and wastewater removal remains about the same, even if residents use less. For example, ongoing maintenance to the city’s 138 miles of sewer lines doesn’t change as the revenue from users decreases.
Water rates are set to increase from the current base rate of $5.28 to $7.63 next month. The following year, the base rate will be $9.89. Additionally, the city voted on a drought surcharge. For Tier 1 customers using between 0 and 8 units (1 unit is 748 gallons), the charge will be 98 cents per unit in 2015 and $1.10 per unit in 2016. Tier 2 customers, who use more than 9 units, will pay $1.23 per unit in 2015 and $1.37 per unit next year. According to the staff report, the drought surcharge can be repealed when the drought is over. Sewer rates will go up 4.6 percent this year and an additional 3 percent in 2016.
According to the city’s information mailer, the actual rates would be something like this: Customers who use 3 units a month currently pay $61.61. Their bills will increase to $69.12 in July and increase again in July 2016 to $73.41. For those using 12 units, bills will increase from $151.81 to $170.43 in July, and then to $176.48 in July 2016
The water and sewer rate increases will affect about 15,000 and 14,500 customers, respectively. Under Proposition 218, customers and property owners can protest the fees if a majority of customers (50 percent plus 1) protest: 743 people protested the sewer hikes, and 732 people protested the water rate hikes, both falling far short of the votes needed.