Water and sewer bills could more than double for Sebastopol residents over the next four years as part of a proposed rate increase to pay for repairing and replacing the city’s aging systems.
The increase, the first since 2008, would be 12 percent a year over the next four years.
As a result, a typical water bill would increase from about $10.79 a month to $24.92 and the sewer charge would go from about $25.67 to $49.92.
“This plan is basically how to keep the water and sewer systems in shape … over the next 75 years,” Vice Mayor Mike Kyes said. “It has been a fix-it-when-it-breaks philosophy. We are switching to a fix-it-before-it-breaks philosophy.”
Sebastopol residents now pay 37 percent less than Santa Rosa homeowners, but that may not make the proposed rate increase any more palatable.
“The increase will be very controversial, basically doubling our user rates over the next four or five years,” Kyes said. “Sebastopol is also used to paying relatively low water and sewer rates.”
Sebastopol gets water from four wells and pipes its sewage to the Santa Rosa subregional sewage system.
The city’s water and sewer systems are intended to be self-supporting, with the fees covering all costs. However, the city is facing a decrease in fee revenue, an increase in operational costs and the need to replace and repair the systems.
The water fund operated at a deficit of $329,403 in the 2007-2008 fiscal year and at a deficit of $3,978 in 2010-2011. It will operate at a slight surplus this year.
Without a rate increase, deficits of $450,000 to $525,000 are projected for each of the next four years, according to the city report.
A typical resident who now pays $129.42 a year would see an annual water bill of $177.98 for 2012-2013, $217.14 for 2013-2014, $256.20 for 2014-2015 and $298.66 for 2015-2016, according to the proposal.
Sewer rates that are now typically $307.80 a year would be $426.54 for 2012-2013; $477.72 for 2013-2014; $535.02 for 2014-2015 and $599.22 for 2015-2016, according to the proposal.
The increases would pay for $481,585 in repair and replacement costs for the water system next year, with similar amounts spent the following three years of the increase.
Rate increases are governed by Proposition 218, a state measure requiring that a notice of the increase is mailed to each property owner, with a ballot form to be mailed back if there is a protest. If 50 percent protest, the increase is nullified.
The proposed increases will be discussed at the Sebastopol City Council meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Community Center Youth Annex.
You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.