CERES -- The Ceres City Council on Monday will hold a public hearing to let water users weigh in on proposed rate increases over the next five years.
The increases will help pay for upgrades to the city's aging water and sewer system, but also reflect the changes from a shift last year to water meters, which put more emphasis on per-gallon usage rather than fixed-rate service charges, according to Deputy City Manager Toby Wells.
The meters not only promote water conservation but also ensure the revenue collected is proportionate to the cost of providing service, Wells said.
Right now, 55 percent of revenue from water bills is generated from the fixed-rate service charge. By the end of the billing increase in 2018, it will account for just 30 percent.
Consequently, the amount residents' bills will increase over the next five years will depend on how much water the household uses.
The bill at an average Ceres home is about $30. At the end of the five-year period, assuming water usage remains the same, it would increase to about $50. A commercial building such as a school would nearly double from $317 to $622 a month.
The majority of Ceres' water users, about 90 percent, are single-family homes.
Although the city is easing customers into pay-per-use fees, the meters already have had the desired effect of decreasing water usage: 24 percent in one year.
If implemented, the rate increases would start July 1.
Customers were notified of the rate change in November and have had 45 days to submit a written protest to the city. A majority of customers, about 6,000, needed to protest to stop the increase. Wells said he has received 14 letters.
The public will have a chance to comment about the water increases. Then the council will vote on whether to follow city staff's recommendation to implement the increases.
The City Council meeting will start at 7 p.m. in the council chamber at 2701 Fourth St.
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2366. Follow her on Twitter, @ModestoBeeCrime.