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With rate increases pending, Fallbrook Public Utilities District focuses on other matters

 

Last updated 10/25/2017 at Noon



A proposed water rate increase of about 8 percent per year over the next five years has some customers of the Fallbrook Public Utilities District steaming, but that frustration was noticeably absent during the board’s meeting on Monday, Oct. 23.

Only one public commenter made mention of the intended rate increases, but it was otherwise business as usual with the board approving a number of agreements, including a 10 percent pay increase for the district’s acting manager, Jack Bebee.

Bebee is technically the district’s assistant manager, but he’s currently working as the acting manager and chief engineer. His salary was raised to $220,150 as compensation.

Though Bebee’s salary was increased, members of the board voted to decrease their per meeting compensation to $100 per meeting. That was the payment amount established in an ordinance in 2009, which increased the pay to $100 from $40 per meeting. However, the language of that ordinance allowed for a 5 percent cost of living increase per year starting in 2011, meaning the board was receiving a little more than $134 per meeting attended this year and would receive about $140.70 per meeting attended starting in 2018 if the ordinance hadn’t been formally amended Monday.

The decisions about pay that the board was making arrive only a couple months ahead of significant water rate increase that was detailed in an eight-page letter to Fallbrook residents.

Under the planned rates, a customer with a 2-inch meter could expect to pay a monthly fixed charge of $197.75 in 2018, $213.57 in 2019, $230.66 in 2020, $249.12 in 2021 and $269.05 in 2022. That’s about an 8 percent increase per year or a 36 percent increase by 2022.

Volumetric rates, determined by how much water has been used, are added to the monthly fixed rates. Volumetric rates are also generally planned to increase by a rate of about 8 percent yearly.

In the letter, the Fallbrook Public Utilities District said it determined rate increases were necessary after seeking input from an independent consultant.

District officials say the increases will be necessary to maintain financial and operational stability, comply with state and federal regulations, fund infrastructure projects and avoid depletion of reserves.

During the public comment session, De Luz Heights resident Stephen Taylor said he had applied to have the size of his meter reduced, hoping that doing so would allow him to save some money before the end of the year.

“I’d like to reduce my current monthly cost of my overall bill,” Taylor said. “Because in January of next year, even reducing from a 2-inch down to the inch and a half, I’m actually going to be paying $14 more for just the meter part of it. If I could save for the last two or three months of this year, that would be nice. It would help defray (costs) for the future.”

The problem, Taylor said, is that despite promises to show up, no one actually came to alter his meter size.

Taylor requested that if the meter wasn’t going to be changed before the end of the year, he should at least be charged a rate that reflected his requested change.

That’s something Bebee said he was open to looking into to see if some administrative action could be taken to amend a current policy. No formal decision was actually made at the meeting, however.

A public hearing specific to the water rate increases is scheduled to be held on Nov. 15 at 6 p.m.

 

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