No action taken on extra bathroom charge
South Tahoe Public Utility Department board members debated long and hard but took no action to eradicate an extra charge levied on homeowners with a third bathroom.
The extra connection fee, ranging between $2,000 and $2,500, and an added monthly charge for the third bathroom has been in place for more than a decade. The logic behind the levy was that a third bathroom, which required an extra sewer connection, placed an extra burden on the district.
However, after a 1999 study showed that three-bathroom homes did not unduly impact district facilities, the board has been considering doing away with the fee. But previous debates on the issue have also remained unresolved.
Adding an extra bathroom to the house doesn’t mean family members will begin using the bathroom more frequently, and consequently overload the sewers, said Chris Strohm, STPUD board member. Board members also said the extra charge was unfair and was being used to make up for the shortfall created by lower rates for those with fewer bathrooms.
“We have one group of people that subsidize another,” said Strohm.
However, STPUD’s financial department said doing away with the charge would reduce revenue, which would have to made up by raising rates for all consumers.
“An increased bill would be shocking and disruptive for our customers,” said Rhonda Farlane, chief financial officer of STPUD.
Currently STPUD’s billing is based on the number of sewer connections a family has, and has no connection with the actual outflow of sewage. Homeowners with two bathrooms have three connections, the third being in the kitchen.
Installing meters and having them read to monitor outflow of sewage was considered as an option for billing people, but was abandoned because of logistical problems.
Board members in favor of scrapping the fee argued that many families with two bathrooms used their homes as weekend rentals, thus adding to the sewage burden without having to pay extra. Why then, they said, should homeowners with three bathrooms pay more?
“Almost half the homes are being used as rentals on weekends,” said board member Duane Wallace.
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