Source: Valley Roadrunner

Water rate increases likely to become reality

by Kim Harris

October 25, 2013

Valley Center Municipal Water District customers will likely see a rate increase beginning in February according to a presentation during the regularly scheduled Board of Directors meeting on Monday.

The proposed rate increase for domestic users is 5 percent while, those who utilize the San Diego County Water Authority’s Special Agricultural Water Rate are looking at a proposed rate increase of 3.2 percent if the increases are approved later this year.

The rate increases were built into the 2013/2014 budget according to the report issued by Finance Director Jim Pugh.

“Included in our fees are fixed charges for capacity, customer service and emergency storage charges,” Pugh told the board. “These fees are required regardless of the amount of water we sell.”

Stan Ruland addressed the board saying he doesn’t know that he sees the wisdom in continuing in the avocado business due to the continual rise in water prices. Ruland said he raises 500,000 pounds of avocados a year on 55 acres.

“I’ve lived here on Mesa Verde for 22 years,” Ruland said. “After running other businesses, came into avocado farming when water was only $100 an acre-foot … Our ranch water bill is $150,000 a year. We shut it off this month and I can tell you a lot of other people are going to be doing that.”

Gary Arant, general manager for the districted told the Valley Roadrunner on Tuesday that most of the board members are growers so they understand what the farmers are going through with the rate increases. It is important to remember the water district has yet to profit from the price changes.

“Like I said at the meeting, we have gone from 83 employees down to 62,” he said. “We didn’t raise wastewater, metering or pumping charges. Even though the rates keep going up, we are able to offset other increases by using efficient strategies such as renewable energy and pumping water at night to keep those rates flat.”

Arant said this is the lowest rate increase he has seen in a long time.

“It’s usually an increase of seven to ten percent,” he said. “This is the first time in five or six years I have seen it so low.”

Arant said he expects the board to vote on the increase during the Nov. 18 meeting.

“Our rate increase will take effect January 1, 2014, but the customers’ increase won’t show up on their water bill until after February 1,” he said.

In other news, the board received only 8 proposals from the 27 law firms it sent requests for proposals to for General Counsel Legal Services. Every board member will have a month to evaluate each proposal.

“We will go into closed session to determine how to move forward,” Arant said. “We may even have a decision that night.”