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City of Lodi plans changes to water rates

Monthly water bills will increase in January, and wastewater fees in July

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Posted: Wednesday, October 16, 2013 12:00 am

If your water comes from the City of Lodi, chances are your monthly water bill will go up in January and your wastewater bill will be higher in July.

January’s water bill will include a 2.5-percent water rate increase that was approved in 2009.

July’s wastewater bill is part of a proposed new five-year water, wastewater and solid waste rate plan presented to Lodi City Council members on Tuesday morning by Public Works Director Wally Sandelin.

The plan includes a 3-percent water rate increase every year from Jan. 2015 through 2019; and a 3-percent yearly wastewater increase from 2014 through 2018.

Those water customers who have meters — meaning they are charged by how much water they use — may see a their bill go down in some cases.

That’s because in addition to the yearly rate increases, city officials plan to change the water and wastewater rate structures for customers using water meters in order to comply with state law.

If the plan goes into effect, metered customers will still see the rate increases of up to 3 percent annually, but because of proposed changes to the rate structure, the water bill in January for the average single-family home could be $40.76. That’s 50 cents less than it was last year, according to data given to council members by Sandelin and the city’s rate consultant Robert Reed, of Sacramento-based The Reed Group Inc.

In July, that same home’s wastewater bill could rise by $1.43 to $40.07, according to the data.

But if you’re part of the 70 percent of water customers and 90 percent of wastewater customers who still pay the flat rate, you will see the 2.5-percent rate increase in your water bill in January, and a 3-percent increase in wastewater rates in July.

For a single-family, three-bedroom home, this means the monthly water bill will go up by $1.08 and the wastewater bill will rise by $1.29.

And in January 2015, the city will be able to increase water rates by up to 3 percent each year, depending on fiscal needs, through 2019. Wastewater rates can be increased by 3 percent each year through July 2018 as part of the proposal.

Just because the city will be authorized to raise rates by 3 percent every year under the proposal doesn’t mean that it will. January’s expected 2.5-percent water rate increase could have been 3.3 percent under the current plan, Sandelin pointed out.

Owners and residents of metered apartment buildings and mobile home parks will reap the biggest benefits from the proposed rate structures. In January, the average 12-unit apartment complex could see a $157.40, or 42.6 percent, drop in its water bill, and a $139.53, or 33.8 percent, decrease in its wastewater bill come July.

The rate increases don’t just apply to residential customers, but to everyone who gets water from the city, such as local businesses.

Sandelin said the entire city should be paying metered water and wastewater rates by 2019. If the city raises rates by 3 percent every year, as the proposal allows, the monthly water bill for the average single-family home would be $45.90.

Reed explained to the council that the changes to the service structure for metered customers were required to stay in compliance with a state law that says charges “shall not exceed the proportional cost of service attributable to the parcel.”

Sandelin said the water rate increases will help pay for installing water meters, well maintenance and replacing infrastructure as needed. It will also help the city pay the $2.3 million annual debt service for the city’s water plant, and may leave the city with $10 million to pay off the bonds in 2020, saving the city millions in interest payments.

The wastewater fees will go toward infrastructure replacement and the annual $3.5 million debt service payments on bonds taken out for upgrades at the White Slough Water Pollution Control Facility.

It will also help pay the $11.4 million cost for fixing and modernizing the irrigation system that feeds the agricultural land at the White Slough Water Pollution Control Facility as well as building two storage ponds, Sandelin said. These improvements will help eliminate the city’s wastewater releases into the Delta, which will save Lodi money in monitoring and treatment costs, he said.

City officials are also making changes to the way they calculate garbage rates two years ahead of schedule, in order to have all three services on the same five-year rate schedule.

Contact reporter Todd Allen Wilson at toddw@lodinews.com.

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