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Folsom residents may soon pay more for water, sewer and garbage services. Here’s why.

Park rangers share 3 water safety tips at this mock rescue on Folsom Lake

Lifeguards, park rangers and law enforcement officers with the California State Parks performed a mock rescue as a water safety training exercise on Folsom Lake, Wednesday, May 22, 2019.
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Lifeguards, park rangers and law enforcement officers with the California State Parks performed a mock rescue as a water safety training exercise on Folsom Lake, Wednesday, May 22, 2019.

Folsom water, sewer and garbage rates could potentially increase for residents, in some cases for the first time in more than a decade.

The Folsom City Council on Tuesday will review a utility rates analysis report, which includes proposed rate increases suggested by staff to meet the current and future costs of “operational, maintenance and capital reinvestment” toward the city’s aging equipment and overworked departments.

Under the proposal, monthly solid waste rates for most residences could increase by $4.50 next year from the current $22.50 the city charges. In five years, garbage rates could more than double: By 2024, the average home with a 64-gallon garbage cart could be charged $46.50 per month.

Water and sewer rates combined could increase as much as $20 per month in three years for most residences under the suggestion by city staff — an roughly $4 to $5 increase in monthly rates for both services in January, and an additional $4 to $5 increase for the respective rates in July 2022, according to the staff analysis.

Homes in the Folsom Planning Area, the major housing project better known as Folsom south of 50, would pay a surcharge to cover the cost of raw water from Folsom Lake servicing the area totaling about an extra $9.20 a month, said environmental and water resources department director Marcus Yasutake.

While the council will be reviewing proposals suggested by city staff Tuesday night, “it’s not a public hearing where any formal action could take place” to approve the rate hikes, said city spokeswoman Christine Brainerd.

“The council is going to be hearing (the analysis) and will provide policy feedback on how to move forward on the information from the presentation,” she said.

And the Folsom City Council could say no to these increases if they wanted to, Yasutake said.

“If council said, ‘Don’t reinvest in capital projects’ then these numbers don’t mean anything,” he said. “They will determine where they want us to spend the money or not spend the money.”

Tuesday’s workshop comes a year after controversial pamphlets were sent to Folsom residents announcing a proposed water and sewer rate hikes. The pamphlets drew criticism from at least two council members, who said they were blindsided by the proposal.

The Folsom City Council later directed staff to conduct additional analysis of all the city’s utilities and did not approve rate increases last year.

Waste rates for a majority of residents have not changed since 2004. The solid waste department today is “understaffed in the areas of management, analytical support and vehicle maintenance,” and currently experiencing “frequent breakdowns and costly repairs of an aging fleet,” according to the staff report.

In addition, outside forces have put increasing pressure on the city’s utility service. Revenue generated from existing recycling programs has slowed in light of China’s recent restrictions on recycling imports. Folsom’s new recycling contract now costs more than the money generated from the value of curbside recyclables.

“They’re getting hit from both sides,” Yasutake said. “They’re impacted on the revenue side and the expense side.”

As for water and sewer rate increases, Yasutake said the new money would fund capital reinvestment projects north of Highway 50, including pipeline replacements in the historic district, repainting water tanks to prevent corrosion, new valves and more. Sewer rates have not been adjusted since 2008, and water rates have not been changed since 2013, according to the staff report.

Yasutake emphasized that the proposal for water and sewer rate hikes isn’t “anybody north of 50 paying for something south of 50,” referencing speculation from some Folsom residents that increases are meant to pay for water to the massive housing development.

“All the projects we’ve included in the next five years are all north of Highway 50,” Yasutake said. “We just have now a new set of (projects) as part of a five-year outlook that happen to be X amount of dollars and that we need to fund.”

There’s no date set for when Folsom City Council would consider or approve rate hikes, Brainerd said.

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Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks covers Sacramento County and the cities and suburbs beyond the capital. She’s previously worked at The New York Times and NPR, and is a former Bee intern. She graduated from UC Berkeley, where she was the managing editor of The Daily Californian.
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