No one wants increased water rates but avoiding the problem is irresponsible
By Sam Allevato, San Juan Capistrano Mayor
By now you should have received your “Notice of Public Hearings on Proposed Water and Sewer Rate Changes,” which is required by Proposition 218.
This process has entailed months of research by our staff and our paid consultants, Raftelis Financial, in addition to several public water forums and joint City Council/Utilities Commission work sessions, where the public was invited to participate and to provide input.
The result is a very comprehensive study of the city’s cost to provide water and sewer service to our residents. For single-family residences, the sewer fee will be reduced by nearly 12 percent. Eighty-one percent of our residents will experience a reduction, no change or a maximum $5 per month increase in their water bills. Nine percent of our residents will see a modest $5 to $10 increase in their bills.
This new rate structure will eliminate the water fund deficit in two years, support modest capital improvements and build emergency and capital reserves to 50 percent of the recommended levels by 2020. It should be noted that our imported water provider, Metropolitan Water, will be increasing their water rates to cities by 5 percent yearly for the foreseeable future, and this increase is accounted for in this study.
Earlier this year, the City Council voted to initiate this study because one had not been done for nearly five years, and many factors—such as increased production by and improvements to the Groundwater Recovery Plant—have changed during this time.
It should be noted that Councilmen Roy Byrnes and Derek Reeve voted against even doing a study because they said it was being done only to raise rates. I am sure you would agree that it makes good business sense and is the responsible thing to do for a city to complete a rate study and establish fair and defensible rates, especially since the rate study done in 2009-2010 is being challenged in court.
Not only did Byrnes and Reeve not want a study done, they did not participate in the water rate structure design options and pricing objectives exercise and missed either joint City Council/Utilities Commission meetings and/or water forums for the public. These workshops were meant to gather the policy decision by your councilmembers and concerns from the public and include this information in the rate study.
Such factors as fairness to the public, affordability for essential use and equitability of resource allocation were rated the highest by the three councilmembers—myself, Larry Kramer and John Taylor—who did participate fully in every meeting and exercise.
I believe no one on the council wants to raise water rates. However, to stick your head in the sand and not acknowledge this precious resource is becoming more expensive, and to not fully participate in the planning for its reliable delivery, is a serious disservice to the public we serve.
Councilman Reeve’s “call to action” to fight City Hall over this rate study is misguided and disingenuous on his part. To first vote against doing a study at all, then to not fully participate in the process and now claim “foul” by the city he has sworn to support and defend, is irresponsible in my opinion.
Please join me in attending the two remaining public water forums on May 29 or June 29, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center, in order to learn more about the water/sewer study and the extensive work and research that went into its preparation.
I am sure this rate study and rate structure is the responsible thing to do to provide safe and reliable drinking water and sewer service to all our San Juan residents.
Sam Allevato has lived in San Juan Capistrano for more than 37 years. He is currently serving his third term as mayor and was first appointed to the council in March 2004.