WatchSonoma Watch

Sebastopol studying water, sewer rate jumps


Spreading water and sewer rate increases over seven years instead of four will lessen the immediate pain for Sebastopol residents, but in the long run it will end up costing more, according to a city analysis.

“It is like a mortgage,” said City Manager Jack Griffin. “You pay more on a 30-year mortgage than a 15-year mortgage even if the interest is the same because the balance is not coming down as fast. The longer you theoretically are in debt, the more the debt costs.”

The City Council is considering rate increases to cover a $370,000 deficit in the water fund next year and to pay for maintenance and replacements in the aging water and sewer systems.

The council at its March 6 meeting deferred action on a staff proposal to double the rates over the next four years, asking instead for alternatives that would have smaller increases.

The city’s water and sewer funds are designed to be self-supporting, relying on fees from the users and not from the city’s general fund. The last rate increase was in 2008.

Griffin said the city needs to cover the deficit, the cost of water and sewer service and also set aside $500,000 a year for maintenance and improvements for each of the systems.

The city this year deferred $1.1 million in maintenance on the water system and $3.9 million on the sewer system.

The city as part of a legal settlement from a sewage spill two years ago must inspect the entire sewage system, using cameras inserted into the lines, at a cost of $400,000.

The staff has proposed a water rate increase of 25 percent beginning in July, 22 percent in 2013-14, 18 percent in 2014-2015 and 15 percent in 2015-2016.

The proposed sewer rate increase is 12 percent for each of the next four years.

After that, the rates could be reduced, according to the staff analysis.

A typical combined water and sewage bill under the present rate structure is $437.22 a year, which would be increased under the staff proposal to $604.52 for next year and to $893.88 in 2015-2016.

Under three alternative proposals that will be presented Tuesday, water rates could be increased 16 percent or 17 percent over the next five years or 13 percent over six years, after which there would be small decreases.

The sewage rates under alternative proposals could be increased by 7.5 percent, 8 percent or 10 percent over the next five to seven years, followed by small decreases.

In each alternative, the lower rate increases accomplish what the larger increases proposed by city staff will do. But after four years the alternative rates remain higher than the rates proposed by the staff.

The council meeting is at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Youth Annex.

You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com.

3 Responses to “Sebastopol studying water, sewer rate jumps”

  1. bear says:

    Everything built must be maintained.

    Defer maintenance to “save” money and the costs soar – like with roads.

    As for water, that is a scarce commodity in the natural environment around here. Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on reservoirs to accomodate economic growth. But not too far off we’re going to hit the limit on diversions from the Russian River water system.

    I predict that will happen in about ten years, plus or minus the impact of any “critically dry” years in between.
    Then things will REALLY get nasty. Our only alternative will be groundwater, and there are LOTS of groundwater problems – one of which is leaking sewer pipes.

    I just love it when problems come together.

  2. Steveguy says:

    “The city as part of a legal settlement from a sewage spill two years ago must inspect the entire sewage system, using cameras inserted into the lines, at a cost of $400,000.”

    A blanket charge, for no other reason than a ‘feel good’ attempt at costing ratepayers more. Our water/sewage systems are being used as a money trough, with water costs going up so much that is expensive to raise your own food when you live in a water price rip-off economy.

  3. Jim Bennett says:

    April 2nd, 11:00.
    We don’t have a water shortage, obviously.
    We have a shortage of public officials with a spine, that will stand with the people and their oath.
    This is 100% ICLEI directive.
    More shananigans to make it too expensive to own private property.
    Contriving more ways to damage us financially.
    Utilizing indoctrination/propaganda
    (which is what this press release is about) and the sheer magic of incrementalism.
    While it was raining all month, I was wondering how they’re gonna jack the water rates.
    However I had confidence that they would.

    Until we understand where all this crap comes from, we’ll contiue to engage in the Left/Right distraction or call our officials incompetant.
    They are competent at implementing ICLEI directive. Adherant to their directive.
    Incentivized by this NGO foreign to our Government.
    To understand THIS information is to understand why things are so screwed up:
    http://www.freedomadvocates.org/images/pdf/Local-The Ultimate War by Michael Shaw_Santa Rosa CA_08-06-2011.pdf
    Then you may be asking THE ICLEI QUESTION too.