At a board meeting October 28, the Rainbow Municipal Water District (RMWD) board of directors unanimously voted to increase meter rates, backflow inspection charges, water pumping rates, monthly sewer service rates, water and sewer capacity fees and water allocation penalty rates effective January 1.
“The average domestic user’s water bill will increase by 12.1 percent,” explained Gene Buckley, finance manager for the district. “Sixty-one percent of that increase is a result of pass-through charges from our water wholesalers, Metropolitan Water District and the San Diego County Water Authority.
“The sewer rate is increasing by 14.9 percent. That increase is 100 percent pass-through from the San Luis Rey Wastewater Treatment Plant in Oceanside.”
The only fee increase not effective in January pertains to the water commodity rate, which will be implemented February 1. The amount of increase on the water commodity rate has not yet been finalized.
The board meeting was loud and disruptive. Community members protested suggestions by board members and voiced unhappiness over rate increases, calling them “premature.” Several community members grumbled loudly throughout board discussions, leaving the meeting before decisions were made.
Dave Seymour, general manager for RMWD, said a significant portion of the increase represents a pass-through cost from water wholesalers, as well as a reservoir-covering surcharge to supplement funding to cover four reservoirs as mandated by the Department of Health Services.
There have been several significant changes with the district’s water wholesalers, the San Diego Water Authority and Metropolitan Water District (MET), over the past few months, such as access to the San Diego County Emergency Storage, causing water rationing percentages to be less than 10 percent for domestic users.
Seymour said other reasons for the increase in fees include higher district overhead, labor and material price increases, as well as a lack of customers. The last increase levied by the district to cover these types of fees was in August 2004, when the fees were raised 11 percent.
“We are paying $2.4 million more for 4.349 acres feet less than before,” explained Seymour, “and are suffering a loss of $965,000 in revenue from lower sales and higher water prices.”
In the event water rationing is mandated, RMWD discussed a plan to ration six units of water, or 150 gallons, to each consumer, which should easily meet the demands of a family of two, said Seymour.
The water district would also penalize consumers using more than the rationed amount by 115 percent by charging them $3.19 per unit over and $6.38 per unit above 115 percent.
Director George McManigle called the decision a way to give the water district economical security for the upcoming year as it “tries to get water into a desert.”
Additionally, the board was presented with a revision in the Interim Agricultural Water Program (IAWP), which would allow customers to opt out of it at the beginning of each year, including January, as MET’s way to phase out the IAWP within the next five years.
This would allow growers to become full-service customers, pay full price for their water and be subject to any mandatory reduction in residential or commercial use but not be forced to follow the IAWP water cuts, which start at 30 percent, and could increase up to 50 percent.
The board also decided to adopt an ordinance amendment for temporary fire disaster relief in the form of a suspended monthly sewer usage charge for customers whose properties were left uninhabitable by the Rice Canyon Fire of 2007. The reduced rate suspension period would have expired on October 31 of this year.
This ordinance is particularly needed in Valley Oaks Mobile Home Park, where only 17 of the 106 units destroyed by the fire have been rebuilt. The RMWD board unanimously agreed to extend the ordinance until October 31, 2009, to give customers an opportunity to rebuild their properties and become full-service consumers again.
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