OCEANSIDE — Oceanside passed water and wastewater rate increases with one no vote from Councilwoman Esther Sanchez Nov. 6.
Increases cover Metropolitan Water District pass through increases for the cost of water, and city costs for water infrastructure and its maintenance.
Customer rate increases were not even across the board. A cost of service study found that different water user groups use different portions of water than previously determined in 2007. Rate increases to go into effect in January reflect changes to the fixed charge per user group.
Oceanside single family residential customers will see no or minimal increase in rates.
A medium use single family residential customer with a monthly water bill of $62.84 will pay four cents more per month.
The same customer with a wastewater bill of $56.76 will see a monthly bill decrease of 48 cents.
Multifamily, commercial and agriculture customers’ rates will go up by a greater percent.
A medium use multifamily residential customer paying $525.09 for water will see a $62.29 monthly increase.
The same customer paying $575.81 for wastewater will have to shell out $71.23 more a month.
All speakers at the council meeting protested the increases. Some signed a majority protest form stating so.
“I’m the average Joe Blow resident,” Nancy White, Oceanside resident, said. “A water increase is brutal at this time. It’s an annual event coming in and speaking to you. My grass is dead, I recycle rainwater.”
Agriculture and multifamily customers opposed their rates going up more than other groups.
“I’m opposed to this,” Michelle Castellano Keeler, vice president of Mellano & Company flower growers, said. “We’re singled out paying the highest increase.”
Dale explained that tiered rates for different customer user groups are consider best practices as long as they are based on rate of service, which Oceanside follows. Carlsbad, Del Mar and San Diego also have tiered water rates.
Programs to assist agriculture users with water rates, and help residential users with water conservation efforts were shared.
Councilwoman Esther Sanchez spoke on behalf of multifamily customers, which include mobile home owners.
She suggested rate increases be phased in, as the city has done in the past.
Water utilities director Cari Dale said phasing in the cost and implementation of self-reliant water projects that will be discussed in January can be considered at that time.
Proposed water and wastewater rates cover current city costs.
Utilities Commissioner Jimmy Knott, who is also a mobile home owner and proponent of the mobile home community, supported the rate increases at the council meeting and previous water workshop on Oct. 23. Knott said every penny of the increase provides water and service.
“Every dime was spent equitably,” Knott said. “I endorse the proposal.”
Council members who supported the increases expressed their aggravation over the climbing cost of water passed through by the Metropolitan Water District.
“Everybody here is compassionate about your rates,” Mayor Jim Wood said. “We all did what you had to do (to conserve water) and rates went up. That came from Los Angeles (headquarters of the Metropolitan Water District) not from us.”
Council members added developing more self-reliant water sources would initially increase customers’ bills in order to finance infrastructure, but would be the best solution to ensure stable water rates and an ample water supply in the future. Metropolitan Water District the sky’s the limit,” Councilman Gary Felien said. “Once infrastructure is in place costs per units will be flat once we cross the line. I support going down that course.”
The city’s goal is to have 50 percent of its water from self-reliant sources by 2030.