City staff requested Council’s authorization to proceed with property owner notification that the City Council will be holding a public hearing to consider amending user fees as a result of the implementation of mandatory water metering and establishing a hearing date of March 9, 2010.
State of California mandates require that water meter rates be implemented by January 2010 with the provision of a one year grace period to educate the customers on what their water bill may be.
The Turlock City Council heard possible rate options pertaining to billing by metered water use.
The existing metered rate structure would drop the current flat rate charge for a single-family home from about $31.50 per month to an average of $25.54 per month metered. The existing metered structure also charges less as more water is used.
This first metered rate option means the City of Turlock would lose $900,000 to $1,000,000 in revenue compared to the current flat rate.
The second option would be to implement new metered rates with fixed costs, $0.54 per 1,000 gallons charge up to 19,000 gallons, and then an increase to $0.68 per 1,000 gallons after 19,000 gallons of use. This would make the average metered bill $30.05 per month, close to the current $31.50 current flat rate.
The second metered rate almost meets the current flat rate revenue needed while also promoting conservation by charging more after more water is used.
The third option would be to implement new metered rates with a series of rate increases over six years. The average water bill rates could increase to $34.53 (2009-10), $36.67 (10-11), $37.81 (12-13), $39.04 (13-14), and $41.68 (2014-15).
Soraya Fregosi spoke during public comment and feels as if the city is apologizing for charging people for the water they use. Fregosi said that if we’re serious about water conservation, we should charge rates that hurt.
“It’s ok to charge people for water they consume,” said Fregosi.
Vice Mayor Ted Howze reminded everyone that we’re talking about a municipal utility that’s supposed to provide a commodity at the actual cost.
“Enterprise funds aren’t really set up to teach people moral or environmental lessons,” said Vice Mayor Howze. “While we all want to conserve water, it’s tough to use their utility to do that.”
In order to raise rates, public notice must be given. If 50 percent plus 1 petition against it the rate does not get implemented.
City Council had concerns with the first two options possibly not bringing in enough needed revenue while feeling uncertain about raising rates higher than needed with option three.
Vice Mayor Howze said that he didn’t think any member of Council was willing to take a stab in the dark at the rate payers’ expense.
The decision on water meter implementation and rates was tabled until December.
City staff was requested to bring back more numbers that give a more clear picture as to what rates are needed to cover actual costs.
Councilman Kurt Spycher requested the surplus amount that has been accumulated from previous rates.
Council also heard a proposal to help fund a regional surface water plant. The joint effort would include Turlock, Modesto, Ceres, and Hughson while Turlock’s share would be $85 million. Turlock’s water bills could go up to $100 per month (or more).
This decision was also tabled as Council requested more options for water supply and possible funding besides just increasing rates to what they felt was unattainable.
This matter will be brought back to Council in about 2 to 3 months.