TURLOCK -- The City Council began the process of possibly adjusting water rates to make up for a more than $750,000 annual revenue shortfall.
In a 4-1 vote, council members approved the acceptance of bids from consulting firms to conduct a water rate study. Newly re-elected Councilwoman Amy Bublak was the sole objector.
The city's last water rate study, in 2009, showed its rates were among the lowest in the region. Currently, the metered rate is about $25.50 for 22,000 gallons. Nearby Modesto charges $51 and Tracy $71. Only Newman and Oakdale charge less, about $25 and $18 respectively. Turlock's rate was adjusted from a previous flat rate of $31 for an unlimited amount of water.
Municipal Services Director Dan Madden said the shortfall has been caused by a combination of people using less water and less money coming in after the rate switch. To make up for the revenue gap, Madden said the city has been postponing capital projects to stave off deficit spending.
"But there is a need to some kind of adjustment to rates," he said.
Once a bid is accepted, the study is expected to cost $20,000 to $50,000.
Bublak, the lone "no" vote, said she would prefer the city save itself the $50,000 and use Madden and his staff's expertise to adjust rates instead. She said the city should look into dropping the number of gallons allotted in the $25 rate.
A motion proposed by Bublak to go forward without using a consultant for a water rate study failed 2-3, with Councilman Bill DeHart supporting the idea. He later voted in favor of accepting bids as well.
City Manager Roy Wasden told the council that conducting a study in house would beyond his staff's scope, time and ability at this point. Newly elected Councilman Steven Nascimento agreed and wanted to begin the process of analyzing the city's water rates.
"I am a data-driven person and think it would be very helpful for council to have (a study)," he said.
Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2284. Follow her on www.twitter.com/turlocknow.