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STPUD approves rate increases, enterprise budgets

Jack Barnwell
jbarnwell@tahoedailytribune.com

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Water and sewer rates for South Tahoe Public Utilities District members will increase beginning June 1 by 6.5 percent and 6 percent respectively.

STPUD board members approved the rate increase at its May 21 special meeting in a 4-1 vote.

Board member Jim Jones voted against the rate increase.



The rates are part of a five-year process the board approved in 2014 to help finance capital improvement projects.

STPUD staff built its 2015/2016 fiscal year sewer and water capital improvement budgets around the rate increase.



While the rate increases were approved through a Proposition 218 process, the board decided to approve increases on a year-by-year process.

Rates will increase to $138.70 per quarter for single dwelling units on flat service and base rate of $118.30 quarter for the lowest metered customers. Sewer rates in single family residences will increase to $35.34 per quarter, or a dollar more per quarter over last year.

Jones, who voted against the raise, said the amount would not be enough to cover the repairs and projects needed for the district’s infrastructure.

“We’ve been cutting repairs for years now and we can’t keep doing that,” Jones said.

Board member Duane Wallace questioned Jones reasoning, noting the only other option the board has is to either not pass it or lower rates, something that would harm the district.

“This increase is hard for me in that it takes a hit on a lot of the people,” Wallace said. “It’s not pretty out there and so I can barely swallow it down.”

Wallace added that the district must move forward with rate increases regardless because it was a responsible business move.

The board also approved the district’s two enterprise funds for the 2015/2016 year in two 4-1 votes.

Jones voted no on both.

The $29.78 million sewer enterprise fund includes $11.9 million for capital projects.

The $15.77 million water enterprise fund budget includes $4.8 million for capital projects.

Also approved was new $50 inspection fee for irrigation exemption applications.

STPUD can grant limited exemptions from irrigation restrictions if a lawn shows signs it needs to be reseeded. Past inspections did not have a fee.

Elections

Board members also discussed possible election changes.

The current STPUD election process requires candidates to specify which seat they wish to run for.

The board had previously requested information about adopting an ordinance that allowed an at-large process that elected in members based on the largest amount of votes.

Some board members noted that the current method can become personal if candidates run against an incumbent.

Board chair Randy Vogelgesang noted there could be advantages to switching.

“I think we might get more candidates running for office,” Vogelgesang said.

Wallace inquired about possible by-district elections, where board members are elected to cover specific areas.

Wallace proposed more research on the subject.

Jones said while he had no strong feelings for election methods either way, the district really didn’t have the number of voters to justify by-district elections.

Vogelgesang proposed looking at term limits, which gained some support and some opposition.

“We do have a form, it’s called elections,” Jones said. “If someone screws up, they’re voted out.”

Wallace said he could no longer support term limits because of the learning curve it took for new board members.

The board directed district staff to come back with additional information.


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