Water board approves water, sewer rate hikes
Ramona Municipal Water District (RMWD) directors held a public hearing on June 23 to consider comments from all district customers regarding increases in water and sewer rates.
In accordance with Proposition 218, approved by voters in November 1996, the district mailed 10,318 letters to customers announcing the date, time and location of the public hearing. RMWD received only five letters protesting the proposed increases.
Water rate increases apply to treated and untreated water supplied to RMWD customers. The increase comes as a result of a 13 percent reduction of water supply deliveries from the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) and the San Diego County Water Authority (CWA), and took effect on July 1.
Revenues in the district are generated from water and sewer rates, property taxes and other fees.
RMWD purchases water from CWA, which received its water from MWD. The water supply cut from MWD is the first since 1992 when the agency last curtailed water deliveries.
At this time, MWD must rely on more costly water sources to help meet demands, according a staff report to the RMWD Board.
As an example of how the rate increase will affect individual parcel owners: treated water was $2.76 per unit, or 748 gallons, and was increased to $2.90. A system charge to a customer with a 5/8-inch meter size was $17.62 per month ($211.44 per year). The increase raises this to $18.50 per month ($222 per year).
Future increases in the wholesale cost of imported water will be passed through to customers. The ordinance approved last Tuesday authorizes RMWD to pass these costs to consumers for three years, terminating on June 30, 2012. The increases will not exceed an aggregate of 30 percent over the three-year period, regardless of the actual amount of MWD or CWA increases. If suppliers increase water rates more than 30 percent in the next three years, the board is expected to discuss the best course of action.
Water rate increases will be used to meet operational expenses, meet financial reserve needs, allow funds for capital projects necessary to maintain service to customers, and purchase or lease supplies, equipment or material. The ordinance states that the revenue from the increase “shall not be used for any other purpose than that for which the charge was imposed.”
Rate increases will also affect the San Vicente and Santa Maria sewer services. The San Vicente Sewer System services parcels in San Diego Country Estates and the Rancho San Vicente/Ryland Homes development. Santa Maria’s system serves most parcels in the downtown Ramona and Mt. Woodson area.
The sewer fees are collected on the annual county property tax bills each year.
With the adoption of the ordinance, the sewer rate increase will not be more than 8 percent for both sewer service facilities. San Vicente customers had been paying $459.41 a year. The increase will add $36.75, making the new total $496.16. Customers served by the Santa Maria system were paying $474.99. The increase will add $38, bringing the total to $512.99.
Members of the RMWD Board voted unanimously to adopt the ordinance increasing district treated and untreated water rates and San Vicente and Santa Maria sewer service charges.
In a related issue, the board passed a resolution authorizing collection of delinquent water charges by placing them on the San Diego County secured property tax rolls. RMWD currently has delinquent charges on sixteen sewer and water accounts. The total amount owed is $4,864.12.
All individuals involved in the delinquent fees were notified by certified letter that they had until June 30 to pay the fees. If they do not, the charges will be placed on their property tax rolls.
Placing delinquent charges on the tax rolls will save the district time and money by avoiding an extensive collection effort. In addition, the delinquent individuals will be subject to the same penalties and same procedure, sale, and lien priority as those who avoid paying their property taxes.
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