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Lodi water rates may increase in January

Protest votes to be counted at Wednesday council meeting

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Posted: Tuesday, December 17, 2013 12:00 am

Lodi residents will see their water rates increase by 2.5 percent Jan. 1, unless enough protest votes are counted at Wednesday’s Lodi City Council meeting.

The City of Lodi sent notification letters to residents in October explaining the rate increase will go into effect. The letter — which was required by state law — also explained that if “a majority of the property owners file oppositions to the increase, the increase will not take effect.”

That means more than 50 percent of the property owners in town must file opposition votes with the city. The deadline to do so is Dec. 18. — Wednesday.

A total of 254 protest votes against a water rate increase out of 35,565 were received in 2009, or just 0.7 percent, according to city records.

If the rates are approved, a single-family, one-bedroom home that currently pays a flat rate of $29.90 per month for water will see an increase to $30.65 on its monthly bill, according to staff reports from Wednesday’s agenda.

Metered water rates may also increase by 2.5 percent in January if approved by the council this week.

A single family home that uses a 1-inch meter and currently pays $38.60 a month will pay $39.57 in January, for example.

The proposed water rate increase was approved in 2009 as part of a five-year plan.

Sandelin said the council could have approved a 3.3 percent increase at that time, based on indexing by the Engineering News Record 20-Cities Average Index. However, staff recommended a 2.5 percent increase, he said.

“We have a detailed financial model on the forecasted increase in costs for labor, fuels, supplies, among other expenditures,” he said. “We found that the 2.5 percent increase would give us just enough to cover all those costs.”

The increase will also help the city pay a $2.3 million annual debt service for its water plant. That may leave Lodi with $10 million to pay off related bonds in 2020, saving both the city and ratepayers millions in interest payments, he said.

In recent years, rates were raised by 2 percent in 2011, and again by 2.2 percent in 2012.

Water rate increases will help pay for water meter installations, maintaining wells and infrastructure replacement as needed, according to Sandelin.

Currently, just 30 percent of the city’s water customers are on a usage based scale. All customers are scheduled to have water meters installed by 2018. At that time, all water customers will begin paying bills based on usage.

Wastewater rates may also see a 2.5-percent increase next year as part of a new five-year plan presented to the council on Oct. 15. While the rate increases were approved for up to 3 percent annually, that doesn’t mean the increases will be that high each year Sandelin told the News-Sentinel in a Nov. 5 story.

For example, a single-family, one-bedroom home currently pays a flat rate of $25.83 per month. The increase will adjust the bill to $26.60 a month.

For multi-family, one bedroom homes, a $25.83 per month bill will also increase to $26.60 per month. A similar home with four bedrooms will see an increase from $51.66 to $53.21 per month, according to a consultant’s report from the Sacramento-based Reed Group Inc.

Wastewater fees will go toward annual debt service payments for improvements at White Slough, totaling about $3.5 million a year.

It will also help pay for about $11.4 million in irrigation system repairs and improvements at the White Slough Water Pollution Control Facility.

Much like the last water rate protest vote, opposition to wastewater rate increases has been minimal. According to city records, protest votes in 2010 counted only 52 of 33,678 property owners, or 0.15 percent.

Wednesday’s meeting will being at 7 p.m. at the Carnegie Forum, 305 W. Pine St.

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