Utility district approves 4 percent rate increase
A 4 percent rate increase to water and sewer rates was approved by the South Tahoe Public Utility District Board of Directors on Wednesday.
The increase, which will become effective July 1, will raise the sewer and water rates for the average home with two bathrooms and a kitchen from $192.85 to $202.50 per quarter, according to information from the utility district.
The board approved the rate increase by a 3-1 vote, with Director Jim Jones absent and Director Ernie Claudio the lone dissenting vote.
“I would really like to see a no vote today,” Claudio said. “Those people who sent complaints will feel they were represented.”
Out of the more than 17,000 STPUD customers, a total of 37 protests were received, according to STPUD Customer Service Manager Lisa Coyner. Only 25 of those protests were validated with parcel numbers, Coyner said.
South Shore resident and business owner John Cefalu was the only member of the public to speak out against the rate increase at the meeting and said he would prefer to see “belt-tightening” by the district before it asks rate payers to absorb added costs.
While complimentary toward STPUD staff, Cefalu said the rate increase is just another example of rising prices squeezing residents and businesses in a struggling South Shore economy.
Director Mary Lou Mosbacher responded by saying, “People are tightening belts (at the district), and I think we did the best we can.”
Most of the money the rate increase will generate will go toward capital improvement projects, mainly the replacement of the district’s undersized water pipelines, according to District Spokesman Dennis Cocking.
A regular 4 percent increase is preferable to going several years without a rate increase, Cocking said. A rate freeze could require a one-year jump of 10 percent or 15 percent in the future, Cocking added.
Mosbacher agreed but also expressed reservations about the rate increase, saying directors are not immune to their own decisions.
Director Eric Schafer said a no vote on the rate increase could leave necessary improvement projects unfunded, which would be akin to the board of directors “screwing the community.”
“A vote against the rate increase today would be reckless and irresponsible. Period,” Schafer said.