Water and sewer rates are expected to increase with the City Council’s consent and, as a way to cushion the blow for residents, the City of South Pasadena is making a concerted effort to layout its plan through a community outreach program.
One of the first big steps in that effort was a forum held on Thursday night at City Hall, in which Public Works Director Paul Toor talked at length about the proposed fee hikes and the city’s overall efforts to improve the city’s water system.
Toor stressed that the proposed rate structure, if approved, will generate significant funding to purchase supplemental water when needed and to continue to make infrastructure improvements.
“The city is proposing to increase the water and sewer rates to generate sufficient revenues ensuring reliable water and sewer services,” Toor wrote in a city report. “Major factors contributing to the proposed increase in water rates include the need to purchase expensive supplemental water, replacing the water utility aging infrastructure, new and increasing stringent state and federal water quality regulations, and an increase in operational costs.”
Sewer rate adjustments are being proposed “to ensure that the system can be updated to meet regulatory requirements and changing the rate structure for the commercial customers from a fixed rate to a flow rate based on water use,” Toor wrote in the report.
Contributing to the potential for a water rate increase is the drought which was cause of record low rainfall from 2011 to 2017. Water conservation measures and mandates have been enforced in South Pasadena for the past five years. “The City of South Pasadena residents did an exceptional job in meeting the water conservation mandates by the state,” said Interim City Manager Elaine Aguilar in the report. “However, the drought had serious impacts on the Southern California water supply and ground water levels are historically low.”
Information about the city’s proposed water and sewer rates was sent to local residences this week. Property owners will have until Nov. 1 to submit protests to the proposed increases “so they can make an informed decision on whether or not this is something they want to oppose,” explained Aguilar. “It’s an interesting process where individuals have the opportunity to say no to the increases. It’s not a yes or no. People just need to submit something to the City protesting the rate increase.”
According to the city report, an Ad Hoc Water and Sewer Committee recommends the financial plan that entails an average of six percent adjustments in 2018, followed by four percent increases each January over the next four years. The proposed rates maintain the current fixed charge structure for residential customers – single family residential and multi-family residential customers based on dwelling units. As a result of wide variations in water use, Aguilar said the commercial rate is being changed from a fixed charge to a flow charge based on hundred cubic feet water use.
“To simplify all this, most individuals are going to see higher water and sewer rate bills,” said Aguilar. “It all comes down to conservation. You can protect yourself from the proposed increases by continuing to conserve. The increase depends on how much water you are using.”
Aguilar said residents could bring their current water bills to the City’s Public Works Department for an estimate on what they could be paying in the future. “Everyone’s different, because it really depends on how much water you use,” she said, noting that outreach efforts are designed to “bring the public up to speed on why the sewer rate increases are being proposed. “We want to answer questions from the public. Residents can always come to City Hall to get their questions answered.”
City Hall is at 1424 Mission Street. Protest notices can be taken to the city clerk’s office on the second floor.
Aguilar said water increases likely won’t go into effect until the first of the year.
For more information, call the City’s Public Works Department at (626) 403-7250.