OAKDALE — The City Council voted 4-0 Monday night to sharply raise sewer rates, over the objections of residents who said the increase would burden financially strapped households.
The typical homes monthly bill will rise about 50 percent over a few years, from $40.25 today to $61.27 in July 2017.
The increase is mainly to repay a $13million state loan for the recent upgrade to the sewage treatment plant.
This is not an increase that I want to do, but I think its something that we have to do, Councilman Farrell Jackson said.
He was joined in the vote by council members Donald Petersen, Tom Dunlop and Michael Brennan. Mayor Pat Paul was absent.
Under state law, the council could not have approved the proposal if a majority of the 7,000 or so customers filed protests. Only 154 were received.
Alice Garcia said the council should have raised rates gradually in the past. This should have been taken care of years ago, the Oakdale resident said.
The council also approved small increases in water rates in 2016 and 2017 to reflect inflation, on top of already approved hikes in preceding years.
Last year, the council voted to pay just $324,697 of the $884,409 owed in the first installment on the sewer loan. The money was owed to the State Water Resources Control Board, which agreed to restructure the payments if the city raised customer rates.
If that did not happen, the city could be in default and the states options would include requiring immediate repayment of the $13million.
At some time, we have to pay the piper, City Manager Bryan Whitemyer said. Unfortunately, thats where were at now.
In a July memo to the council, Whitemyer said the main reason for the sewer shortfall is the rate structure. It is based in part on the volume of water used in winter, and when water rates increased, customers cut back on their use more than officials expected.
The new sewer rate structure eliminates volume-based charges for residential customers, who instead will pay fixed fees each month. Businesses will continue to have volume charges as well as fixed fees.
The increases are on top of a series of sewer hikes that started in 2009, when the typical customer paid $17 a month.
The city already is raising water rates under a schedule approved earlier. This includes a 10 percent increase in July of this year, 8 percent next July and 5 percent in July 2015.
For a typical home with a 1-inch meter, the water bill is $20.56 a month and will be $23.32 in two years.
Under the latest action, the city will increase water rates based on the Consumer Price Index in 2016 and 2017. This is projected to be 2.42percent each year, according to the California Department of Finance.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2385.