Lincoln residents could see their water rates nearly double over the next 31/2 years under a proposal being considered by the Placer County city.
As agencies across the region and state seek to match revenue with expenses, Lincolns rate-hike proposal is believed to be the largest sought locally.
The proposal comes after seven years of holding the line on water rates and is largely a result of an increase in what the city pays for the water it sells to customers, officials say.
The additional revenue will also be used to restore two maintenance positions cut in recent years as the budget was slashed and to cover the costs of routine repairs and long-term projects.
We have to make sure that when people flush their toilet, it flushes, and when people turn on the faucet, water flows, Mayor Stan Nader said.
The proposal calls for a 21 percent increase beginning Jan. 1, hiking the typical customers monthly water bill from $37.02 to $44.87. The staged rate increases would continue until July 1, 2017, with customers ultimately paying $73.11 a month.
The city is also seeking a 30 percent increase in garbage-collection fees over the same 31/2-year period. Residential sewage rates would remain largely unchanged, city officials say.
Lincoln is far from the only local agency that has sought to increase water rates.
Everybody has been through it recently or is about to, said John Woodling, executive director of the Regional Water Authority, which represents 22 Sacramento-area water providers. For several years, there was a real hesitancy to increase rates.
He said many people take for granted what it takes to deliver clean, fresh water. Older cities such as Sacramento face an even bigger problem as underground networks of aging pipes erode, Woodling said.
You can keep rates artificially low, but your system degrades over time, he said.
Bob Blymer, executive director of the Sacramento Taxpayers Association, said he believes much of the rate increases can be attributed to runaway pension costs.
It remains to be seen how Lincoln residents will react to the proposal.
The city will hold two public workshops to discuss the proposed rate increases.
They are set for Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. and Sept. 17 from 4 to 6 p.m. Both meetings will be held in the City Hall meeting room, 600 Sixth St.
In 2010, Lincoln voters soundly defeated a proposal to increase taxes.
Former City Council candidate Jeff Greenberg said he understands the need for the increase.
In the long run, you have to maintain that facility, Greenberg said. But he said he understands how some people could be alarmed.
As a citizen, nobody wants to see rate increases, he said.
The rate-hike proposal is based on a study done by HF&H Consultants.
One major increase in expenses is being passed along from the Placer County Water Agency. In August, the agency approved a 9.1 percent increase beginning in 2014, a 3.7 percent increase in 2015, with increases based on inflation in 2016 and 2017. Those increases were largely attributed to the amount Pacific Gas and Electric Co. charges them for untreated water.
Nader said 60 percent of what the city collects now goes to PCWA. That figure will climb to 70 percent after the PCWAs increases take effect, he said.
At $37.02 monthly, Lincoln residents pay more than their counterparts in Roseville ($27.10) and Folsom ($30.12), but less than residents of Rocklin ($58.45), and those served by the San Juan Water District ($41.47).
Nader said the extra maintenance funds are sorely needed. He said it was a mistake to keep the rate lower than it needed to be.
That was not wise on the part of the city, Nader said. We have kind of painted ourselves into a corner.
Call The Bees Ed Fletcher, (916) 321-1269. Follow him on Twitter @NewsFletch