Recent state court ruling “a disappointment” to water districts hoping to use drought as an excuse to raise rates

24 Jul

I read a piece in today’s Sacramento Bee, written by Dave Kasler – “Court won’t budge over water”. 

Kasler writes, “the state Supreme Court has kept intact a ruling that makes it harder for municipalities to impose tiered pricing to discourage heavy water use.” Governor Jerry Brown was quoted as saying the ruling represents a “potential strait jacket” for regulators. 

The court cites Proposition 218, a ballot measure passed in 1996 that forbids municipalities from charging fees that represent more than the actual cost of providing the water. In other words, these water utilities can’t use the drought to make an extra profit, like they’ve been trying to do.

While the decision came out of a case involving the city of San Juan Capistrano, it looks like it will also affect all water districts in the state.  “What was particularly alarming to state officials was that the court of appeal ‘published’ its decision, extending it’s impact to the whole state.”

San Juan Capistrano will have to make refunds to customers, but, this may not be the end of gratuitous rate increases. The ruling allows rate increases as long as “they tie their rates to cost to comply with Prop 218.” Ask yourself, exactly what is meant by costs?  The notice we got in 2013 included over $300,000 for pensions, and $165,000 for infrastructure. They consider their own pensions to be our cost.

Compliance seems to be up to the water district. For example, “Sacramento Suburban Water District said it thinks it’s tiered pricing complies with the court ruling.”    Uh-huh, sure it does Honey.

These agencies are “quasi public” and should have to show their books. We should know exactly how much they spend on themselves, and we should know what the investors are getting. We need our city officials to stick up for us like the city of Selma, near Fresno. 

“[City manager Ken]Grey explained, ‘It’s a grave disappointment to the city of Selma to see this kind of an increase, it draws into question the operational aspects of Cal Water providing services to the city of Selma and certainly the city council is going to have to give consideration to whether or not they continue this relationship with California Water Services.'”

In fact, one city council member is calling for the city to buy the utility right out of town. Read more at Marysville for Reasonable Water Rates:

That’s really a discussion Chico needs to have, now. If you dig through a pile of crap Downtown, you might find the reports regarding the clean-up of wells around town – wells used to make a profit by Cal Water, cleaned at the expense of the city, the taxpayers, the ratepayers.  Now that the city has foot the bill to clean all the wells, just what “infrastructure” is Cal Water intending to fix?

Remember people, if you want Accountability, you have to provide it yourself. 

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