Rate increase approved by utility district
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – A 3 percent increase to sewer rates was approved by the South Tahoe Public Utility Board of Directors Thursday afternoon.
The board also took steps towards approving a metered water rate structure that drew concerns about exorbitant summer bills for customers with water meters.
The sewer rate increase will raise the typical residential customer’s quarterly bill by $2.62 and raise $298,000 annually for the district, according to the district’s Chief Financial Officer Paul Hughes. The revenue will help pay the debt service for projects at the public utility district’s South Lake Tahoe and Alpine County facilities, Hughes said.
Board President Dale Rise, as well as Directors Chris Cefalu and Eric Schafer voted for the sewer rate increase, while Director Jim Jones and Vice President Mary Lou Mosbacher voted against it.
A larger increase is necessary to maintain the district’s infrastructure, which has been has been under-funded because of the board’s reluctance to increase rates in recent years, Jones said.
Mosbacher said she could only support a 1 or 2 percent increase because of the state of the economy.
“There’s too many people out of work up here,” Mosbacher said.
Rise said he expected to be chastised for his decision to vote “yes” on the increase, but said he agreed with Jones that the sewer system needs to be maintained.
“We can’t let our system go any further,” Rise said.
Earlier in Thursday’s meeting the board gave direction to staff to bring back a water rate structure that angered STPUD customers who have already been switched to metered water rates.
Many fear the quarterly bills reflecting summer months, when landscape irrigation spikes, will skyrocket.
The majority of STPUD customers remain on a flat water rate, but California has required customers with water meters to be billed based on consumption, a system criticized by district staff and directors as inequitable. No rate increase is proposed for STPUD customers on flat rates.
Rise said he supported a metered rate structure proposed earlier this month rather than two new options presented by consultant Shawn Koorn at Thursday’s meeting because the original proposal best fits the intent of California’s water conservation requirements.
The original metered rate proposal will encourage conservation, especially among the heaviest water users, Rise said.
Directors also told staff to begin developing a program for homeowners who experience high landscape irrigation bills to show them ways they can cut back on water costs.
The board is expected to formally approve the metered water rate structure at a special meeting Tuesday. The meeting starts at 10 a.m. at 1275 Meadow Crest Drive.