Hang On to Your Wallets; City OKs 25.6% Water &Sewer
Rate Increase

By John Perry

Based on City documents, a planned water & sewer rate increase will hit consumers harder than first thought. The Water Rate Study that was approved by the City Council in February 2010 provided authority for the City Council to levy a series of rate increases on your monthly water bill.

The initial rate increase in February and July 2010 amounted to 40% for water usage plus another 5.5% for a service charge. The Council also approved a continuing yearly rate increase of 3% for water, 5.5% for service charge and 5.5% for sewer.

However, the City Staff is now calling for a “readjustment” of customer sewer rates to more accurately reflect the cost of providing the sewer service.

The residential service will be “readjusted” from 5.5% to a whopping 17.1%. Mobile home residents will be hit with an increase of an astounding 19.8%.

Meanwhile, the City is giving rate decreases to commercial users at an average of 6.5 %. So, that means that the hotel or business with many toilets pays less for their service than a homeowner with a couple of toilets, even if the commercial users are placing more strain on the infrastructure.

This “readjustment” is an obvious way of increasing “revenue” to the Utilities Department in an election year without disturbing the politically sensitive issue of the faulty and costly water plant. Most people will likely shrug off a 3% increase in the cost of water. But if you look at the total water bill, you will see a 25.6% increase, not a small increase.

So what is driving the increase? The City has generated a deficit of over $8.2 million that is causing embarrassment to the elected officials and the new City Manager. Since the topic of water rates is a “hot potato’, the staff seeks to sneak through a significant overall revenue increase in the sewer fund. The overall objective is to show the public that the City Council and administration is diligently seeking to reduce the deficit. Make no mistake; this is all about the election. The City Council would like nothing better that to take credit for deficit reduction in an election year.

What can you do? Demand more information about why the City can’t live within its means. Demand to know why expenses continue to spiral out of control due to employee salary increases, pension benefits, and health insurance costs Demand cutbacks instead of rate increases!

Write an email or letter today to the City Council at: cityclerk@sanjuancapistrano.org demanding a rate freeze until they show some real budget reductions.

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