Water rate notice lacks essentials

By Bernard G. Kuhn

Following is a letter that I recently wrote to the Ramona Municipal Water District manager and board president regarding the notice of proposed increases in water rates for RMWD customers.

I am criticizing RMWD in this matter because water rates are important to everyone. RMWD is as close to local government as Ramona gets, and it provides essential services that we all use every day.

The notice about increased water rates was poorly done, inadequate in information and is hardly worth the paper it is written on. It raises more questions than it answers, aside from what I have stated in my following letter.

Why does RMWD need to hire a consultant to do its analysis of expenses and proposed rates? General Manager David Barnum was the former finance manager for RMWD and is qualified to do it himself. Is RMWD afraid to do the work and take responsibility for it? Is the consultant meant to be the whipping boy?

I believe that the RMWD board should be involved in the analysis of costs, raising rates and in reviewing and approving notices to the public about them. Such notices are an important interface with the customers, whom the board represents.

The current board is holding the meeting to consider and approve the rate increases in the afternoon of June 25 when most customers cannot attend because they are at work. The board’s other meetings are also held in afternoons, contrary to previous practice. I believe this is a disservice to customers whom the board represents, and it suggests that the board does not want customers to be involved in their own business. Board meetings should be held in evenings so that customers can more easily attend.

Re: Proposed Increases in Water Rates and Fees

Mr. Barnum,

This is regarding the notice and explanation of the proposed increases in water rates and fees that I received in the mail from RMWD this past week. I vote against the increases because the notice does not explain or justify them. I will review the letter under the three main headings that are in the notice:

Water Rates

The proposed increase in “water rates” is a modest 1.97 percent, and I would not argue against it, though the notice does not say how much the Water Authority is increasing rates to RMWD.

Water Service Fees

These fees are called “System Charge” on our bills, and I don’t know why you called them something else in the notice. The proposed increase is 5.1 percent, but there is no explanation given at all. If these fees are related to RMWD operating and administrative overhead, you should say so and state how much your overhead has gone up, or explain otherwise.

Electricity Surcharge

There is no explanation or justification in your notice for the very large proposed increase of 41.5 percent in this surcharge. The amount of proposed increase is not even in the notice; I obtained it from your customer service representative on the phone.

The obvious other thing missing is: How much is SDGE increasing energy charges to RMWD? The surcharge should be directly related to actual Kw-Hr charges by SDGE, but the lack of such information and the large proposed increase suggests that you are using this surcharge to cover other unstated items.

Summary

The lack of explanation of the proposed increases indicates either carelessness by the staff who prepared the notice or shows the notice to be just an arrogant statement to RMWD customers.

I believe that RMWD customers deserve straightforward, understandable explanations of ever-increasing water charges and real justification of increases.

I suggest that you send a new and adequate notice and explanation letter to RMWD customers in plenty of time before the open meeting on June 25.

Sincerely,

Bernard G. Kuhn

Bernard G. Kuhn is a Ramona resident and former Ramona water board director.

Related posts:

  1. Water board approves water, sewer rate hikes
  2. Ramona water district to hold public rates hearing Tuesday
  3. RMWD plans water, sewer rate hikes
  4. RMWD reschedules rate increase hearing
  5. Water district prepares for rate hikes

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Posted by Staff on Jun 11 2013. Filed under Commentary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

6 Comments for “Water rate notice lacks essentials”

  1. Funny

    Pretty obvious that this is all the work of current director Kesinger.

  2. What the Hey!

    BHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

    Bernie Kuhn was an appointed, not elected, RMWD Board President back in the late 80's. Under Bernie's "leadership" the water district averaged a new Fire Chief, General Manager and District Engineer every few months. Bernie "lead" the district into crippling debt and was personally named in at least one Grand Jury Investigation for numerous and blatant Brown Act violations. Eventually, the people got sick of the behavior and voted in Prop. NN that limits RMWD's ability to make bad decisions without prior approval from the people.

    Go to the internet and find the LA Times and SD Union articles written about Bernie and how his disastrous, bizarre and pointless decisions made Ramona damaged our town. It is strange that he disappeared in disgrace for almost 30 years and now he decides to write a rambling incoherent letter and he does live in kit's current Division?

    Bottom line, Bernie Kuhn has no right to criticize anyone. He was present, if not responsible, for the worst chapter or RMWD's history. I recommend the RMWD Board of Directors do the opposite of anything Bernie suggests.

    • Longtimer

      Ah yes. Unfortunately I remember those days all to well. Everything you have stated is absolutely right. Also, where has Mr. Kuhn been all these years? Prop 218 Notification process was voted in in 1996 and first notices went out in 1997. The process Mr. Kuhn is complaining about has been the same since then. RMWD is following the intent of Prop 218 in the same manner all other public agencies follow it. I guess he wants the district to attach the entire budget document to the letter too? That's about 50 pages in itself. Lets see the cost to the rate payers by sending a 50 page document to about 9500 customers. Yeah, that'll be cheap. Also I'm sure that about 90% of the 218 letters just get tossed in the circular file anyway and no one complains until they get their first bill after the budget and rate increases are approved. As for the time of day the board meetings or public hearings are held it hasn't made a hill of beans difference if its at 2pm, 3pm, 4pm, 5pm, 6pm, 7pm or whatever. I've been to many board meetings at all the different times and you still only get about a half dozen or so people show up protesting the rates. So Mr. Kuhn (er, Mr. Kesinger as Funny states) your kidding yourself if you think your commentary is going to make a difference.

  3. Ralph

    Given RMWD's recent history of illegal fees and rates, perhaps Kit is the only honest Board member at the water district. Maybe it's time that UCAN and Channel 10 investigate the latest row of fees without any basis. Given that they recently passed a new records retention policy, I'm sure they are already destroying the evidence that UCAN and Channel 10 requested in their news story below:
    http://www.10news.com/news/san-diego-utility-dema...

  4. FmrGM/Ralph

    To be perfectly clear, the Ralph above is not me. I do hope it is another Ralph and not someone posting as me. Thank you!

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