CERES -- The City Council on Monday approved an increase in rates for water and sewer services.
The increase will help pay for about $8 million in capital improvements. The biggest project is the installation of a water distribution line from Hatch Road to Service Road.
Several people spoke out against the rate hikes, including a tier system that charges users 45 percent more for using more than 50,000 gallons of water a month. One resident questioned why lot size wasn't taken into consideration.
Councilman Mike Kline suggested raising the tier increase to 75,000 gallons. The rest of the council agreed, voting unanimously to approve the increases with the amendment to the second tier.
The new rate structure also will reflect a shift last year to water meters, which put more emphasis on per-gallon use rather than fixed-rate service charges, according to City Engineer Toby Wells.
The meters not only promote water conservation but ensure that 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.
Most of the last rate increase, $3.5 million, was used to purchase the meters. The water meters are mandated by the state, and before the last increase, Ceres residents paid the same flat rate for 10 years, Mayor Chris Vierra pointed out.
The water bill at an average Ceres home is about $30. At the end of the five-year period, assuming water use 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.
A majority protest by water users could have stopped the increase, but fewer than 1 percent filed a written protest with the city.
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2366.