Increase for sewer rates projected at 3.5 percent
The South Tahoe Public Utility District is proposing to increase its sewer rates by 3.5 percent; however, whether that is an across-the-board increase remains to be seen.
STPUD provides sewer service to all of South Lake Tahoe and Meyers through 16,000 connections.
The utility district started a comprehensive sewer rate study last year. The purpose was to determine whether the various customer classifications were paying their fair share of the sewer costs. Another reason was to help the utility district plan for expenses in upcoming years.
A “snapshot” of the results reveal that some of the sewer classifications may be paying more, some less, than their fair share of the overall costs, said Diane Noble, STPUD customer service manager.
Single-family and multi-family units are very close to paying their dues. However, commercial and restaurant designations may not be paying their equal share. Increases of 17 and 41 percent respectively would be needed to bring those designations into equality. On the other hand, motel/hotel and trailer/mobile home park designations could decrease 12 and 34 percent respectively in order to be equal.
STPUD’s board of directors Thursday discussed the options of bringing those differences into equality at its regular board meeting. No action was taken, and later workshops will also address the issue.
If a move toward making the rates equal is made, it likely will be made in very short stages. Rates probably will not increase more than 5 percent for any classification.
“(The consultant who completed the study) is not recommending you hang your hat on this snapshot,” Noble said. “He’s recommending moving in that direction and taking another look.”
While several board members agreed moving toward equity was important, they were concerned the system of determining the rates could become too complex for the public to understand.
“How complicated is this going to be to explain to our customers? The customers staying the same or going down we probably won’t hear from. The rest of them we will,” said Chris Strohm, vice president of the board. “I’d move toward equity, but I’m really pessimistic it will be simple enough.”
“It’s got to be simple,” said Jim Jones, president of the board. “It has to be something we can understand and something you can administer.”
STPUD’s sewer rates are divided among single-family, multi-family, commercial, motel/hotel, restaurant and trailer/mobile home park designations. Noble said within those designations, large variations in sewer use also likely exist. For example, large hotels with high occupancy likely have more sewer use than smaller hotels with low occupancy rates.
However, reclassifying may not be the answer.
“You can have 100 groups, and it will be fairer than it is now. But it would be an administrative nightmare (to create more classifications),” said Rhonda McFarlane, STPUD director of finances.
Any proposed changes are expected to go into effect in July. But that doesn’t mean STPUD is rushing into a decision.
“I would caution us to go extra, extra slow,” said Duane Wallace, STPUD board member.
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