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Sentinel staff report–
The Citrus Heights Water District’s board of directors voted to approve an 11 percent increase in water rates following a Nov. 25 public hearing held in a community room at Rusch Park.
Nine members of the public spoke during the hearing, largely questioning whether repeated rate increases are necessary, as well as questioning the salaries of some water district staff. A total of 38 protest letters were also received by the water district from ratepayers.
In a presentation during the hearing, district staff said the increase was necessary to avoid debt and provide for replacement of aging water mains and meters, as well as expand the district’s groundwater well systems.
The board ultimately voted 2-0 in favor of approving the rate increase, as well as an increase to service fees. Beginning in 2020, bi-monthly, fixed service charge fees will rise to $87.29 for a typical 1-inch residential meter, with water usage charges rising about 11 cents to $1.18 per unit.
“I see this as intentional planning so that we do not face large issues that are going to burden future generations with huge costs,” said Board Chairman Ray Riehle prior to casting his vote. “We’re at a point where we can make incremental and modest increases in what we pay — what I pay, what every member of our district pays — in order to prevent us from being backed into a corner and having to debt finance or having a disaster that is going to create serious problems for future generations.”
Riehle was joined by board member David Wheaton, who also supported the increase. The third member of the board, Caryl Sheehan, was absent from the meeting.
Wheaton said he was comfortable with the increase, “only because either you pay now or you pay later, and the cost later is much higher.” He also spoke in support of a pay-as-you-go approach to infrastructure replacement and called debt financing “a horrible, horrible, horrible decision that I would not want to make and I would not vote for only because I know that you end up paying twice or three times as much as the original monies.”
The district will also soon vote on whether to adopt a recommendation from its Customer Advisory Committee, which has proposed adding a new 5.5% surcharge to water bills beginning next year to help cover the projected $390 million cost of replacing the majority of the 200-plus miles of water mains that were installed in the 1960s to 1980s. The project, known as Project 2030, includes a recommendation for debt financing.
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